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Alt: A doodle aims a paper airplane at another doodle and shouts, “Hold still! I’m trying to target you with information!”

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’re no strangers to the terms “target audience” and “target population” — they’re health comm bread and butter! But when you think about it, they aren’t such a great way to refer to… well, anyone.

“Target” sounds a tad aggressive, like militaristic terms we try to avoid. And it may make people feel they’re being, ahem, targeted — rather than prioritized, which is what we actually mean! This connotation can get especially dicey when you’re writing about marginalized communities.

Of course, your end user may not ever set eyes on the doc where…


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Alt: Five doodles stand under the words: “Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over, there’ll be no shortage of careful reflection and lessons learned for public health officials (and communicators!). But one major takeaway needs our attention right now: COVID is affecting people of color at wildly disproportionate rates.

Addressing this problem will require systems-level change — and that’s why we were excited to hear about the new Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. …


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Alt: Above the word “equality,” 3 doodles of different heights stand on 3 same-size boxes. They’re trying to see over a fence to watch a baseball game — but the shortest doodle still can’t see over the fence. Above the word “equity,” the same 3 doodles stand behind the same fence — but the short doodle gets 2 boxes, the medium doodle gets 1 box, and the tall doodle doesn’t get any boxes. This way, they can all see over the fence.

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we really enjoy talking about how health communicators (like you!) can help address health disparities. And since COVID-19 affects some groups far more than others, addressing disparities in our health materials is as urgent as ever.

So this week, we want to take a closer look at the difference between equality and equity. The George Washington University has a great resource explaining the difference, but we’ll give you a quick summary:

  • Equality means giving equal resources or opportunities to different people or groups. …

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Alt: A doodle wearing a messenger bag and a hat labeled “mRNA” holds up a COVID-19 playbook and says, “Delivery!”

Now that folks are starting to get COVID-19 vaccines, many people are eagerly awaiting their turn in line. But because the first 2 COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are a new type — called mRNA vaccines — lots of people also have questions about how they work.

If you’re still getting up to speed on mRNA vaccines yourself, here’s the gist: mRNA stands for messenger RNA — and the messages these vaccines carry are like instructions for your immune system.

All vaccines work by training your immune system to recognize and fight off a specific germ before it…


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Alt: A doodle swooning on a couch says, “Oh, the mortality!” Another doodle points to a graph and says, “I think you mean the death rate.”

It’s hard to believe, dear readers, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been dominating headlines and newscasts for nearly a year. And that means we’re coming up on a year of being inundated with a lot more public health jargon than we’re used to.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve covered lots of COVID-related terms (antibodies! hygiene! isolation/quarantine/social distancing!). And this week, we want to take it back to basics and talk about 2 terms that are public health staples. We know it might pain you (and your public health degree) to think ill of these words — but if…


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Alt: A doodle celebrates the end of 2020 — and the start of a new year.

Well, we’ve made it. 2021 is nearly upon us, and we couldn’t be happier to usher 2020 right out that proverbial door. We won’t harp on what a difficult year it’s been — and in so many ways. Instead, we’ll focus on what we do best: geeking out about health literacy!

For health literacy lovers like us, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented communication challenges. And as we’ve all tried to figure out how to overcome them together, we hope you’ve found our content on communicating about COVID helpful.

So this week, we’re bringing you a roundup of sorts —…


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Alt: A researcher doodle joins a video call from the couch, wearing a lab coat and bunny slippers. They say, “Can you hear me?”

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’re always stressing how important it is to test your health materials with your priority audiences. And during COVID-19, remote testing may be the only safe way to do it. So this week, dear readers, we’re sharing tips for successful remote user testing:

  • Work around WiFi barriers. Don’t let a lack of high-speed internet limit your pool of potential participants — there are ways around this common hurdle! You can talk to participants over the phone and avoid the internet entirely — or send session materials via snail mail to avoid screensharing issues…

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Alt: A doodle holds a newspaper that says “ProPublica” at the top.

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’re always singing the praises of plain language. And while we’re usually blabbing on about how great plain language is for health materials, its uses are so much broader than that!

That’s why we’re so excited about ProPublica’s plain language reporting initiative. As part of a recent story about disability benefits in Arizona, ProPublica published plain language “translations” alongside the original reporting on its site.

To make the story more accessible to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ProPublica used an ultra-accessible version of plain language that goes even farther in terms of…


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Alt: Two scientist doodles wearing masks stand in front of a sign that says, “Vaccine trials.” One of the doodles also wears goggles and holds up a pair of test tubes.

If you’re like us, dear readers, you’ve been eagerly following updates on COVID-19 vaccine trials. But of course, any benefit from a vaccine depends on people actually getting it. And the latest Gallup poll has the percentage of Americans who say they would do so at just under 60. So we’ve got some work to do on this front!

With the super speedy COVID vaccine development timelines, people may worry that experts are skipping safety steps. Often, we can stick to a simple key message to address this: “Experts are doing trials to make sure COVID vaccines are safe. …


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Alt: A doodle wearing a beret paints a pictogram on an easel. The pictogram shows a person sneezing.

Visuals are a powerful tool in our health communication toolbox. They help us convey big ideas in a way that transcends language and cultural barriers. And here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’ve really been digging a certain type of visual lately: pictograms.

A pictogram is a drawing or image that represents an idea in a simple, literal way. We can use pictograms to show recommended behaviors, symptoms, and other health concepts that can be tricky to explain. They’re especially useful for audiences with limited literacy skills, limited English proficiency, or cognitive disabilities. …

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