Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal, 4(1),24-33
This study investigates how Canadians with limited literacy skills make sense of their patient-education experiences. The authors cite a Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) study indicating that 60 per cent of Canadians don’t have sufficient skills to manage their health and their health-care needs. That can mean difficulty in taking medications correctly or using health services effectively.
The authors note that research on the link between literacy and health has tended to focus on policy issues, program evaluation, and assessment tools. Patient education studies have centered on improving the readability of materials and increasing the awareness of literacy issues among health-care professionals. The authors instead sought to investigate the meaning of patient education experiences for adults with limited literacy and chronic illness and to ask how these patient experiences affected these adults and what types of barriers they encountered.
The authors divide their findings into five themes: roles and relationships; language and health-care interactions; living between worlds; mismatched expectations; and powerlessness. They also evaluate their findings through the lenses of adult learning theories and discuss the implications of their findings for all parties.
The authors provide a literature review and outline their research methodology.
Authors: Poppy Quintal
Poppy gave a brief history of how and why Simplified English (SE) was developed, and an overview of the SE rules for vocabulary and grammatical style. A before-and-after analysis of cautions and warnings showed the benefits of SE to an industry in which quick and clear understanding of maintenance procedures is a vital safety consideration.
Michel presented a new tool called “Assessing the Complexity of Literacy Tasks.” It is designed to help document designers understand the ability levels of readers as defined in the International Adult Literacy Survey. This complexity-rating tool, based on the work of Irwin Kirsh and Peter Mosenthal, can help information designers ensure that the level of complexity of public information matches the literacy level of the target readers. It complements plain language techniques and can deal with some of the shortfalls of readability formulas based on school grade levels.
Some thoughts for the PLAIN conference, Toronto 2002
Authors: Peter Butt
In a panel discussion chaired by Joseph Kimble, Brian Hunt and Peter Butt argued the assumptions behind the use of plain legal language. Brian posed the questions: Is there really a demand for plain language legislation? Would plain language legislation function as intended? Peter presented evidence from recent research supporting the claim that plain language benefits legal documents and statutes.
The health-literacy connection
Authors: Doris E. Gillis
Have you ever left your doctor's office confused by the advice you were just given? At some time or other, most of us have felt limited in our knowledge and understanding of information related to our health.
Health literacy is a new concept that links our level of literacy with our ability to act upon health information and, ultimately, take control of our health. It builds upon the idea that both health and literacy are critical resources for everyday living.
Addressing health literacy means breaking down the barriers to health that low literacy creates
Authors: Sally McBeth
Although we often think of George Orwell's classic essay on the politics of language as the starting place for the plain language movement, we are part of a tradition of advocacy for grace, simplicity, and equity in communication that goes back to Chaucer and beyond him, to the hybrid beginnings of the English language. Sally's short historical tour honoured the work of the plain language pioneers in our midst.
Authors: Deirdre Viviers
South Africa has 27 spoken and 11 official languages, and no uniform level of proficiency in English. Yet education, access to information and transparency are basic human rights, according to the new constitution. Plain language therefore plays a vital role in attaining these goals. Because plain language skills are also necessary for successful participation in the business community, the School of Accountancy at the University of the Witwatersrand developed a Business Communications course. Deirdre described the rationale for and design of the course, with a focus on the centrality of plain language.
Authors: Jamie Lamothe
The goal of Public Health is to promote and protect health and prevent disease. Jamie explained how, at Halton, clear language is one component of a larger “Equal Access Strategy” that aims to remove barriers to public health services. Participants who attended this presentation learned about the energy needed to champion a clear language strategy in a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment; and the rewards that accrue to an organization embracing change.
Authors: Ruth Baldwin
This booklet is about writing to be understood. It will provide some ideas about what makes material difficult to read, and some tips on how to better communicate.
The ideas found in this booklet can be applied to any kind of writing. However, they are most important if one is writing for adults who are not comfortable getting information from print, either because they don't read well, or because English is not their first language.
Authors: PEI Literacy Alliance
The research presented in this report is a needs assessment of health professionals communicating health information. It complements a previous research project carried out by the PEI Literacy Alliance, entitled "Health Information Needs of Adult Learners in PEI." The intent of this research is to create a snapshot of the issues facing health professionals when communicating with patients. For this project, researchers surveyed 99 health professionals and summarized their findings in this report, as well as in the charts in the attachments section.
As the findings indicate, many health professionals are unaware of the scope of the problem of low health literacy and few professionals have received training in how to communicate with patients with low literacy skills. This report includes a description of the project and key findings; a discussion of the findings; and suggestions from health professionals.