4072.0: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 9:15 AM

Abstract #14928

Improving Risk Communication Plain Language Communication for Presenting Critical Health Information

Rima Rudd, MSPH, ScD and Kimberly Kaphingst, ScM. Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, 617-432-3753, rrudd@hsph.harvard.edu

Public health and medical practitioners have been grappling with poorly written medical forms and patient education materials for several decades. The literacy literature of the last three decades focuses on patient educational materials, which, when written at levels beyond the reading ability of most adults, limit access to vital information [Rudd et al, 1999]. A clear trend emerges from the literature: most often, the literacy demands of the material exceeds the literacy abilities of the reader-that is, most adults in the United States.

Although a number of publications have emerged since the 1980s offering tools for materials assessment and processes for the development of suitable materials for health communication, little attention was paid to the process of re-writing materials, especially information from regulatory agencies. In addition, most public health and medical literature reveals a focused interest on materials for individuals. An interest in plain language has spurred some regulatory action in areas such as real estate and commodities exchange. However, scant attention has been given to public health risk communication.

We report here on a rigorous process that was employed in developing a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) as mandated beginning in 1999 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all water suppliers serving more than 10,000 people. Assessment tools and procedures for re-structuring and re-writing the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's materials will be presented. Data and information on the final assessment of materials that were mailed to 800,000 residential addressees in the MWRA's service area will be presented.

Learning Objectives: After this session attendees will be able to: 1) describe the literacy literature as it relates to public health practice 2) describe a process for assesing, restructuring and re-writing materials in order to make them more accessible

Keywords: Literacy, Risk Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA