"Swine Flu" — How Is All the Information Being Disseminated Understood by Those with Low Literacy Skills?

There has been much discussion on the Health Literacy Listserv healthliteracy-bounces@nifl.gov)this week regarding how the media, CDC and others are handling all of the information regarding the “swine flu” asking the question – how is all this information understood by those with low literacy skills? One contributor reminds us “just how daunting a task it is to communicate during crisis events”.

James Hyde, from Tufts University School of Medicine wrote about the confusion concerning the name: swine flu, H1Ni, pandemic flu… He pointed out the name issue is about politics not science and he referred to an article in the New York Times, published April 28th,


Another contributor, Caroline Marshall from Horblit Health Sciences Library, referred to the April 29th CBS Early Show, where the Director of the CDC used the term “respiratory secretions”. Caroline’s point was that he wasn’t speaking
plain language.

Several contributors wrote about resources which they developed on this topic. Three are mentioned here.

Sage Words developed a pandemic flu brochure specifically for a small clinic on the Navajo Reservation. Though the illustrations are targeted towards this population, it is in English, and the information is general. It includes preventative measures, and is for low-literacy users. It’s designed to be easily photocopied or printed from computers and is available to anyone who might find it appropriate to use. Go to www.sagewords.org and click on Products. This was contributed by Kathy Anderson; — kath@healthletter.com; Health Education Specialist; Sage Words accessible health communications http://www.sagewords.org

Another contributor, Nadia Ali, M.D.,wrote he has developed a website www.healthliteracynow.com, which he uses with his patients.

Tufts University Hirsh Health Sciences Library has updated SPIRAL (Selected Patient Information Resources in Asian Languages) with Asian language information handouts on swine/pandemic flu in response to the current outbreak: http://spiral.tufts.edu/topic.shtml#swine_flu

from the CAPHIS web site…
Nikki Dettmar writes “I have also created an H1N1 information wiki that has some other multiple languages/low literacy resources at http://medlibs.pbworks.com/Swine-Flu-April-2009

I welcome additional medical library writers & will be formatting to have the wiki more navigable as time permits.

Nikki Dettmar; Acting Education & Assessment Coordinator; National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region; aka Eagle Dawg http://eagledawg.blogspot.com/

Mr. Hyde reminds us that it’s difficult for all of us to sort out the facts and how to act on what we hear. “One can not begin to imagine what it must be like for those further challenged by limited health literacy.”

This entry was posted in CDC, Health Literacy listserv, Low Literacy, pandemic flu, plain language, Swine Flu. Bookmark the permalink.

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