Tips for incorporating health literacy best practices into your patient materials

Sep 28, 2017
Tips for incorporating health literacy best practices into your patient materials

Health literacy is important for everyone. All people, at some point in their lives, need to be able to access, understand and act upon health information in order to manage health problems that may arise.

Astellas is committed to working with you to help you develop and provide health information that is easy for people to read and comprehend. People need information that they can understand and use to make the best decisions for their health.

By incorporating the principles of health literacy into your patient materials, you can help make your materials more readable, usable and actionable. Improving the health literacy of your patients is key to improving their health outcomes.

Here are some tips to help you develop and design effective health information materials in accordance with the principles of health literacy.

Tips for developing patient materials

  • Use plain language. Choose common words instead of unfamiliar words. Define medical or technical terms simply the first time they are used. Use everyday examples to explain complicated concepts. Avoid complex, multisyllabic words. Instead, choose words with fewer syllables. For example, use “high blood pressure” rather than “hypertension,” “heart disease” rather than “coronary heart disease,” “start” instead of “initiate,” and “if” instead of “in the event of.”
  • Keep sentences short. Limit sentence length to no more than 15 words.
  • Organize information into chunks. Group content that is similar into several smaller groups. Use subheads and short paragraphs to break up the material.
  • Use bulleted lists. Try to limit the number of bullets to no more than 7 items.
  • Keep your materials at an appropriate reading level. Check the reading level of your materials to ensure that it matches the reading skills of your intended audience. Aim for a 6th to 8th grade reading level. The Fry Method of Readability is one of the more useful tools for assessing reading level.
  • Use the second person (“you”) to involve the reader, and use the active voice to personalize your message and keep your content clear and direct. Avoid the passive voice. For example, “Healthcare providers recommend that you get a flu shot” is preferable to “Getting a flu shot is recommended.”

Tips for designing patient materials

  • Use plenty of white space around the margins and between sections.
  • Choose typefaces that are easy to read. Use at least a 12-point serif font for body copy. Use sans serif fonts only for headers and subheads. Avoid using all capital letters, italics, fancy script, knock-out type, wrap-around text and ghosted backgrounds, all of which can make copy difficult to read. Keep line lengths between 40 and 50 characters. Do not break words by hyphenating them at the end of lines.
  • Use visuals to help draw in the reader, explain important information, and supplement and clarify instructions. Choose culturally sensitive images of people that reflect your target audience. Include simple illustrations to help users understand complicated or abstract medical concepts. Use captions and labels that are clear and to the point, and use callouts to highlight key information. Be sure to place images in context. For example, when illustrating internal body parts, show their location by including the outside of the body in the illustration.
  • Use blocks of color to emphasize key messages. But be careful not to use too many colors. Overuse of color can be distracting.
  • Keep the layout consistent. A consistent layout guides readers through a piece, helping them to read it in the proper order.
Tips for incorporating health literacy best practices into your patient materials

Astellas Patient Advocacy is a function within Corporate Affairs at Astellas that focuses on creating, building and maintaining third-party relationships. We serve as a conduit between Astellas and external stakeholders to help improve patient outcomes, improve access issues and address patients’ unmet needs head on.

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