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Bridging the Health Literacy Gap

Health Literacy for Better Public Health

Clear, Main Messages – We all Need One

Categories: Plain language

The main message of this week’s post is that every health material needs a clear, main message.

The power of a main message is that your readers or listeners can almost immediately say, I know what this is about. When you state your main message clearly AND put it at the beginning, you help your readers or listeners know what is most important. 

Perhaps you think this point is obvious. Of course every health material has a main message, you say.

Let’s put this idea to the test with a main message challenge: Go to any health web site, randomly select a web page, download a brochure or report, or listen to a podcast or video on the site. Try and find the main message in the first paragraph, first set of key points, or first few sentences of the audio or video recording.  Can you easily and clearly state the key point this organization or person is trying to communicate to you?

Once you’ve taken the challenge, send in your results, and we’ll post them in the comments section.  Let’s do our part to improve health messages!

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. October 3, 2012 at 12:57 am ET  -   Max

    I reviewed the NCBIs link to diabetes, which is the first search term that comes up when I googled “diabetes”. This took me to a very dense article on diabetes which makes a failed attempt at plain language communication. NCBI needs to present their information in a more user friendly fashion and define terms such as glucose and insulin more thoroughly especially if it is the first search result on google.

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  2. October 3, 2012 at 12:42 am ET  -   Max K

    I reviewed, which is one of the websites that came up when I searched for diabetes on google. The website is easy to navigate, but it uses many terms that are not well defined such as insulin and blood glucose. it would be helpful for the site to define these terms right off the bat and so that further, in-depth conversations about diabetes can be had.

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  3. September 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm ET  -   Ryan

    I reviewed the Mayo Clinics website ( for information about Sepsis. I found the information to be very accurate and to the point, though it was far to high of a reading level for many Americans who deal with health literacy issues. A typical American may have no idea what inflammation, intravenous, and microscopic mean. For this reason, I would suggest that they Mayo Clinic re-word many of their phrases and define others that are essential to the message.

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