To help increase readability, consider these 4 tips when creating healthcare materials in other languages.
1. Health materials should focus on key messages and what patients need to know. Best practices include:
• Write clearly and in an active voice.
• Use familiar vocabulary and simple terminology.
• Use short sentences.
• Use graphics, videos or pictures that “show” rather than “tell.”
• Keep materials at a fourth- to sixth-grade level.
2. Employ readability tools to analyze and ensure the proper literacy levels.
• Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word can automatically determine the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and readability ranking.
• Because readability formulas used in English can’t be applied to foreign language documents, professional translators should utilize various other language-specific assessment tests.
• For Spanish, consider the Huerta Readability formula (HRE), an assessment similar to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test designed for analyzing texts in Spanish.
3. Health materials should be culturally relevant.
• Use images and examples that reflect the target audience. Pictures should display people of their own demographic rather than a generic stock photo of an “ethnic” person or family.
• If menu/food recommendations are included, they should reflect items that are relevant to that audience’s daily diet.
• Do not use slang or cultural references that may be unfamiliar to an immigrant or LEP population.
• Initiate a community review to test materials for comprehension and effectiveness.
4. Use professional linguists.
Materials should be translated by professional linguists and reviewed for grammatical inconsistencies and readability, important details that are beyond the capabilities of machine or computer-based translations.
About the author: Natalie Middleton is a strategic marketing communications professional with nearly 10 years of corporate and tech PR agency experience. Natalie has experience in the real estate, healthcare, education, data storage and digital connectivity sectors and holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Pacific University. Read more from this author