This week, Dagny Olivares from CDC’s Emergency Communication team blogs about plain language and public health emergencies.
September is National Preparedness Month. Across the country, it’s a time to take stock of how prepared we are to withstand and respond to emergency situations that affect us, our families, and our communities. At CDC, we make sure that we are prepared to protect the nation’s health from whatever threatens it, be that natural disaster, disease outbreak, or emerging hazard. To do that, we are working to ensure that plain language is a part of our emergency communication planning. Steps we are taking include
- Training staff to understand and use the principles of plain language when developing and reviewing emergency communication materials;
- Prioritizing plain language along with such message characteristics as accuracy, timeliness, and consistency; and
- Working with subject matter experts to review our existing emergency materials so that we can make them more understandable and accessible.
The updated CDC 2012 edition of the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) manual states, “Technical language and jargon are barriers to successful communication with the public. In low-trust, high-concern situations, empathy and caring carry more weight than numbers and technical facts.” Public health professionals must make plain language a core tenet of their emergency and risk communication strategies because people need to be able to understand and act upon health information quickly in times of stress and uncertainty.
What are you doing in your organizations to make plain language a part of your preparedness planning? What challenges are you facing in undertaking that mission? We’d love to hear about your experiences, tips, and lessons learned.