Understanding health information
Health information empowers people to stay healthy and manage illness. To empower, health information must be ‘understandable’. It’s an ideal we’re not yet reaching, and advocates of health literacy frequently warn that health information is often too difficult.
To make health information understandable, we need effective tools. Usually, those tools are plain English and Easy Read.
Plain English was created in the mid 20th century. Since then, we have made significant progress in understanding how we read and learn, yet popular plain English guidelines have stayed steadfastly the same.
In the 1980’s, in the UK, plain English was joined by Easy Read writing, for people with disabilities. But Easy Read writing is the same as plain English, and derives from plain English. It’s a one-style-fits-all approach, a relic of a transmission model of communication in which the provider tells the recipient the information is plain, easy and clear.
An active task
We now know it’s the recipient who decides how easy the information is. We now know that reading is an active task, influenced by the reader’s knowledge, experience and expectations. We now know that there’s a lot more to making health information understandable than popular plain English implies.
Easier English puts that knowledge in to practice. It’s a tailored, evidence based approach that supports understanding, processing, learning and use of health information. It doesn’t rely on counting word and sentence length, because we don’t read by counting. It’s objective, not subjective, and responsive to language, literacy and knowledge needs.
“Easier English is quite transformational. It really has made us wonder why we ever thought it was a good idea to write in such a complex way. We can’t wait to get our new information out there!”
Publications and Information Manager, UK health charity
Accessible information for everyone
Easier English makes information easier, for people with high and low literacy, expert patients and those who know nothing, people in denial or shock, and people with sensory, cognitive and communication impairments. Easier English makes health information accessible for everyone.
To find out more, please contact us.