Information for Developing and Pretesting Concepts, Messages, Materials, and Activities
Recruiting People with Limited English Literacy
One effective and respectful approach is to recruit (and pay) people from adult literacy programs to aid in the development of concepts, messages, materials, and activities. Input from participants such as these can be vital in ensuring that communications materials about a FCA can be consumed by all people, including those who may have limited English literacy. Another approach is to recruit people with limited education as they may have limited literacy skills. Participants’ health literacy skills can be assessed using tests such as the short form of the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA) link to information about this test, but such tests should be used sparingly, because they can embarrass participants. For more information, refer to Communicating Risks and Benefits: An Evidence-Based User’s Guide (FDA) (p. 134).
Credibility and Trust
The information source can affect how target audiences interpret and respond to messages. A target audience is most likely to believe sources that it perceives to be credible (expert, trustworthy, and concerned about the target audience’s interests), likeable, appealing, and similar to them. Credibility and likeability appear to have the strongest impact on an audience. Credibility is influential when it is established before the message is released. For more information, refer to Communicating Risks and Benefits: An Evidence-Based User’s Guide (FDA).
Building Public Trust
If there is more than one agency working on the FCA, the team needs to be cohesive and cooperative so they do not lose public trust. The public sees different agencies as all from same “government.” Members of the target audience will “give up” if different agencies send different, and thus confusing, messages. For more information, refer to National Risk Communication Conference Proceedings Document (PDF) (196 pp, 708 K).
Example of Visual Aid
When offered more information specific to the fish they were catching, especially a visual depiction of the fish’s mercury level, anglers were more receptive to the accompanying fish consumption advice. Round mercury meters worked well to interpret mercury levels in fish. The viewer associates the meter with a speedometer, interpreting high to mean “danger” or “stop,” and low to be “safe,” making it an effective low-literacy tool. Meters can facilitate comparisons between fish of different species and contaminant levels. For more information, refer to Communicating Fish Consumption Advisories in California: What Works, What Doesn’t.
Reminder: Digital Divide
Some people do not have ready access to computers or smart phones, so nonelectronic media will still have a role to play. Hardcopy documents can still be used. Laminated “flash cards” or other ways of waterproofing documents or brochures can work well if the materials are to be on or near the water. For more information, refer to National Risk Communication Conference Proceedings Document (PDF) (196 pp, 708 K)
Learn more about Health Literacy and Plain Language Communication
Health Literacy is the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.
Training is available from public and private organizations. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a free online overview course Health Literacy Training for Public Health Professionals.