Got some meaty health content you’d like to share with patients? Here’s 6 ways to transform mouthfuls of complex health information into tasty, easy-to-swallow morsels.
Hint: these tips also work with any complex material, such as finance, legal, technology and engineering information.
1. Use plain English
This might seem obvious. However, when you’re immersed in health (or any specialist field), it can be easy to insert jargon into your everyday communication – often without realising it.
Most consumers don’t have the years of training and experience to understand health and medical terminology.
Take this example, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry for synovial fluid:
“The main features of synovial fluid are: (1) Chemically, it is a dialyzate (a material subjected to dialysis) of blood plasma… (2) Physically, it is a markedly thixotropic fluid—that is, one that is both viscous and elastic. … (3) Functionally, it has two parts to play: nutrition and lubrication. It has been established that synovial fluid alone, by virtue of its being a blood-plasma dialyzate, can nourish the articulating parts of the articular cartilages.”
What a mouthful! Of course, an encyclopaedic entry must be thorough and accurate. But if your health content reads like this, it’s way too chewy for most health consumers to swallow.
Instead, try something like, “Synovial fluid is a mildly thick, sticky body fluid that nourishes and lubricates your joints.”
You can apply this tip to any field of health.
2. Use analogies and similes
A great way to aid understanding is to liken your complex idea to something everyone can relate to. Getting back to synovial fluid, you could explain its function by likening it to engine oil.
So, “Just like engine oil allows surfaces to glide freely over each other, synovial fluid acts like a lubricant between the surfaces of your joints. Unlike engine oil, however, synovial fluid also provides nourishment to the joint surfaces.”
See how you can also contrast the two for further clarity?
Or if you’re a dietitian, you can liken food to a vehicle’s fuel (maybe you already do this). Just as a car runs best on clean fuel that’s right for its specifications, your body runs best when nourished with clean, healthy food that suits your needs.
This method can be especially effective if you know something of your patient’s interests. You can tap into things they know and understand for even more effective explanations. Say, for example, your client loves fishing and you want to explain how exercise will help their back pain (or, for a dietitian, their need to follow a healthy diet to manage weight).
You could say, “When you go fishing, you wait for the tide and use certain bait to catch fish, right? In the same way, these exercises create the right conditions to help your back pain (or these foods create the conditions you need to lose weight).”
3. Charts and graphs
Especially when it comes to health information with statistics, a visual representation is often better than explaining with a lot of words. Graphs and charts can also add value to your explanations.
This graph, for example, taken from Wikimedia Commons, is an easy-to-understand snapshot of the fraction of cancers estimated to be induced by HPV (from 2006).
Examples help to make abstract, complex ideas and information easier to understand. You can see how I’ve used the synovial fluid example already.
In a recent article covering new research about back pain and lifting, I used an example to illustrate pain and fear-avoidance. Here it is:
“For example, say you injured your back bending to pick up a box. It gets better, but your mind associates bending with injury. You avoid bending, instead reminding yourself to always keep your back straight. This leads to stiffness and more back pain.”
I loves me a good infographic!
Like charts, infographics are a visual representation of information or data, designed to present it quickly, clearly and attractively. A well-designed one will simplify a complex subject into something engaging.
You can use them in your social media posts, blog posts, articles, newsletters and EDMs.
I’m no graphic designer, but here’s a simple, free infographic I created on Canva to illustrate this article.
6. Images and photos
I always say one word conjures up as many pictures as the people reading it (think bedroom right now and I’ll bet your image is different to anyone else’s!). As a health copywriter I hate to admit it, but sometimes a picture is better.
Images and photos are a great way to add value to your words, or, in some cases, replace them. How much easier for a reader to understand scoliosis from an image, for example, or what a healthy plate looks like.
In your clinic, have a tablet on hand to quickly look up images to show your patients. Or use them in your online/printed marketing materials (with appropriate copyright permission and attribution, of course!)
I hope you’ve found some helpful ways to break down your meaty health content into spicy spoonful’s. After all, you want your readers to come back for more!
Are there any other ways you do this? I’d love to hear about them.