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Summary: CDC Health Litearcy Agenda Webinar

By Anne Conner, NN/LM NER Healty Literacy COI Leader; Director, Gale Medical Library, Littleton, NH

Cynthia Baur’s CDC’s Health Literacy Agenda CE webinar on September 11, 2013 was extremely informative.  Cynthia is the Senior Advisor for Health Literacy at the CDC’s Office of the Associate Director for Communication (OADC).  She started off by giving the CDC’s three health literacy goals, which are based on the National Action Plan to improve health literacy goals which came about with the Federal Plain Writing Act of 2010.  What is the CDC doing to promote a clear communication culture across the organization?  Cynthia included a slide detailing their 7-step process in a graphical format.  These steps may be applied in our own organizations.

I really liked The CDC Clear Communication Index, which is a research-based tool to plan and assess public communication materials.  The Index provides a numerical score on a scale of 100, with four (4) questions and twenty (20) items which the research shows are the most important characteristics to enhance clarity and aid people’s understanding.  It’s available through

This tool represents an evolution from several plain language guides produced by the CDC. In addition, there’s a companion guide which details how to use the Index.  I urge you to check it out. I really like the fact that this Index provides an unbiased score, and rates materials in seven areas: main message and call to action, language, information design, state of the science, behavioral recommendations, numbers, and risk. A score of 90 or above indicates that the finished product addresses most items that make materials easier to understand and use; if the score is 89 or below, the material needs revision.  The User Guide gives descriptions and examples for ways to improve the material.

The other important topic Cynthia discussed the potential role for libraries collaborating on clear communication projects with public health agencies. Partnering with local health agencies ties in well with the National Action Plan To Improve Health Literacy’s Goal 4 (, which is to “Support and Expand Local Efforts To Provide Adult Education, English Language Instruction, and Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Health Information Services in the Community”.  It’s not possible for the CDC to understand the needs of all audiences… everywhere.  We have an opportunity to form relationships with our local health departments, identifying information gaps and audiences not being reached.  In addition, we can review materials for clear communication using the Index.

If you want to view the webinar, point your browser to   I highly recommend this webinar if you are interested in furthering clear communication in your institutions or through public health partnerships in your areas.

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