In the next of our health literacy expert spotlights, we’re introducing Jon Cope. Find out why he believes that making assumptions about people’s level of understanding is one of the most common pitfalls when producing health information.
Jon is a senior lecturer in public relations at Westminster University, alongside his freelance practice in health communications. Outside his work, Jon spends most of his time cycling with like-minded dads in and around the Kentish Weald.
1. What does health literacy mean to you in 10 words or less?
Making it easy for everyone to engage with health information.
2. What drove you to specialise in health literacy in the first place?
A love of language, an eye for editing and a hatred of unnecessary obfuscation! My early communications roles involved helping people understand the downsides of risky behaviour – using drugs, smoking, excessive drinking and unsafe sex.
What struck me then was the extent to which well-educated and highly literate individuals responsible for producing health communications could overlook the difficulties inherent in reading, understanding and acting upon their outputs.
3. What is the most common health literacy mistake you see in published health information?
Making assumptions about the audience’s level of understanding.
For example, even a relatively straightforward statement such as ‘use effective contraception’ makes at least three assumptions: a) that people understand the term ‘contraception’; b) that people understand what effective means in this context; and c) even if people do correctly understand the meaning of ‘effective contraception’, that they know how to use it properly.
4. What are your top three tips for good health literacy?
- Know your audience
- Information can’t be made too simple
- Assume nothing!
Jon is a senior lecturer in public relations at Westminster University, alongside his freelance practice in health communication. Outside his work, Jon spends most of his time cycling with like-minded dads in and around the Kentish Weald.
The Difference Collective is a group of health literacy experts, communicators and healthcare strategists. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you look at your organisation’s approach to health literacy and help you produce better health information.