Recognizing Health Literacy at NIOSH

Posted on by Tanya Headley, MS; Sarah Mitchell, MPH; and Sydney Webb, PhD


Graphic from NIOSH

As we come to the end of Health Literacy Month this October, we remember the quotation often attributed to Einstein, “that all physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart, ought to lend themselves to so simple a description ‘that even a child could understand them.’”

There is an expectation in the research community that writing about science requires jargon and to write in plain language makes things less clear or, at worst, incorrect. This is not true. Plain language can be and should be used for any audience at any level. Clear communication and plain writing are essential parts of all effective communication. In fact, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires that federal agencies provide clear communication that the public can understand and use. This is a critical part of the service that we at NIOSH provide as a public health agency.

At NIOSH, using plain language has been a priority to help us fulfill our mission to keep workers safe and healthy. Over the last several years, NIOSH staff have been recognized by the prestigious Clearmark Awards, sponsored by the Center for Plain Language. We are happy to announce that this year the NIOSH Personal Protective Equipment Tracker App received a Clearmark Award of Distinction in the special COVID-19 category.

We would also like to take the opportunity to share some of the information and resources related to health literacy and plain language from NIOSH. The CDC Health Literacy webpage offers trainings and access to the evidence-based Clear Communication Tool. This tool helps to evaluate the readability of your document. NIOSH uses this tool for many of our communication materials such as webpages, fact sheets and infographics.

As an institute, we celebrated Health Literacy Month by learning more about this important subject through webinars, weekly tips from staff, plus a scavenger hunt! How did you celebrate Health Literacy Month?


Tanya Headley, MS, Senior Health Communication Specialist, NIOSH

Sarah Mitchell, MPH, Health Communication Fellow, NIOSH

Sydney Webb, PhD, Health Communication Specialist, NIOSH

Posted on by Tanya Headley, MS; Sarah Mitchell, MPH; and Sydney Webb, PhD

2 comments on “Recognizing Health Literacy at NIOSH”

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    Congratulations on your ClearMark Award, and thank you for promoting the use of plain language and pointing readers to the CDC Health Literacy webpage. Due to COVID-19, we had to celebrate Health Literacy Month virtually this year, but NIOSH and many CDC centers and offices didn’t let that stop them. I’d love to hear more about your scavenger hunt.

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Page last reviewed: November 2, 2020
Page last updated: November 2, 2020