'Plain English' Is a Language. How Can it Improve Health Literacy?

Health Literacy

The average reading level for U.S. adults is seventh grade. The recommendation for healthcare communications is that it be at a fourth or fifth-grade level.


According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage and prevent disease. Nine in every 10 of us struggles to understand and use health information.

The reason is that much health-related content is unfamiliar, complex, or filled with industry jargon. The reality – and imperative – is we need to improve health literacy. Low health literacy costs this country an estimated $238 billion each year.

When it comes to health literacy, using plain English isn’t just the best approach. In many cases, it is required.

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Translation Projects: Here's Why Your Overseas Office Can’t Do Them

Translation Projects

Your organization is expanding internationally. You’re responsible for making sure that the translation of your carefully crafted English content doesn’t end up reading like those laughably bad assembly instructions that we have all tried to decipher.

The inclination of many is to have their overseas colleagues translate and localize the content. Decades of experience have taught us that this endeavor will quickly exceed what your colleagues can do in their “free time.” So how should you approach these projects and how do you know which is the right way?

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10 Tips for the Translation and Localization of Training Content

Translation and Localization

In her book “The Good Company," Laurie Bassi found the best single predictor of a company’s ability to outperform its competitors is the amount of investment made in training and developing employees.

The remarkable growth of remote training since the term “eLearning” was coined in 1999 has been driven by globalization, the internet, the proliferation of smart phones and myriad tools to create and manage remote-learning courses. A global health pandemic is now highlighting the importance of quickly training remote employees in order to safely maintain operations.

If your organization is facing the additional challenge of delivering effective distance learning and training across time zones, cultures and languages, here are a few key concepts to keep in mind:

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Five Ways to Better Manage and Evaluate Document Translation Samples

We are often asked by clients and prospects to provide a sample translation as a means of comparing quality. While this seems like a logical step, we’ve often found these organizations become the proverbial “dog that caught the car” – they have what they asked for, but are unsure what to do next.

The truth is that language is subjective. In this article, we’ll share how you can establish clear criteria to determine which translation service is best for you.

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CASE STUDY: As Diversity Surges, City's Police Turn to Remote Interpreting

Remote interpreting foreign language interpreting for police

Timmins is a city in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Its population of nearly 42,000 is growing increasingly diverse.

Timmins has always been linguistically diverse, as more than half the population is bilingual in English and French. The Timmins Police Service has long had multilingual officers who could communicate with the public in English, French, or Cree.

But the community has seen cultural diversity expand in unpredictable ways, and police found themselves in need of interpretation in numerous of other languages. Police Chief John Gauthier said the community has seen a rapid increase in international students and their families relocating from Southern Ontario.

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Language-Access Protections Still in Place Despite Rollback on Notices

Language Access

Last week, the Trump Administration announced a rollback of language access notifications for limited-English speakers and other important civil rights protections. The regulations were included in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1557 is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities, including those that receive federal funding.

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Kiosk Program Provides Limited English Speakers with Virtual Care

Virtual Care Kiosk Program

The rising number of non-English and multi-lingual speakers in California has created significant communication barriers in healthcare settings, resulting in challenges for providers and worse health outcomes for patients.

When patients and clinicians cannot understand each other, the risk of misdiagnosis, under-diagnosis, duplicative testing and inappropriate prescribing increases. Additionally, patients that experience language barriers are less likely to seek care, build trusting relationships with providers, or adhere to treatment programs. 

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INFOGRAPHIC: The Persistence of Minority Health Disparities

Health crises do not affect everyone equally.

The coronavirus pandemic and recent social unrest have shined a light on the racial and socioeconomic disparities in health and health care in North America. Ethnic minority communities and groups of lower socioeconomic status consistently experience worse health outcomes, and have more difficulty accessing health care and health education.

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Communicating with Limited-English Speakers During a Pandemic

Foreign language interpreting during COVID-19

The Mount Sinai Health System in New York serves one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world.

The system’s motto is “Better Together,” and from the start of the coronavirus outbreak, their values drove the way they delivered language services during the COVID-19 crisis. This included:

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Telehealth Services Risk Leaving Non-English Speakers Behind

without language interpreters, telehealth

Telehealth has the potential to improve healthcare access, but without interpreters, it may inadvertently worsen minority health disparities.

A new report from UCLA says that policymakers should ensure that telemedicine doesn’t leave vulnerable populations behind, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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