This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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27 June 2012

Health literacy and PHARMAC's Māori Health Team

I had a conversation about health literacy with Marama Parore, Manager of the Māori Health Team Te Whaioranga at PHARMAC

Health literacy is about being able to get the healthcare you need, in your own social context and your own community, so the people giving information and the people hearing or reading it understand each other.

Marama says that understanding health literacy underpins everything that PHARMAC’s Māori Health Team does in their work with Māori and Pacific communities.

‘PHARMAC’s programmes are a mix of art and science’, she says. ‘We are strengthening the cultural competency of cardiovascular nurses to work side-by-side with communities — nurses use enabling language only, they make no assumptions about people’s literacy, and they make no judgments. They value people where they are.’

Programmes build awareness and action
PHARMAC’s programmes develop their own momentum. One Heart Many Lives has led to Ironmāori. It’s a 2km swim, 90km cycle, and 21.1km run held at Pandora Pond in Napier. This year’s Ironmāori Half Ironman event was booked out in eight minutes, and next December 2000 people will line up to compete — they are managing their own health.

The Māori Health Team’s goal for PHARMAC’s community programmes goes beyond the first step. One Heart Many Lives, for example, began as an awareness-raising campaign in 2003, because communities were losing their kaumātua too young.

One Heart Many Lives was a way of encouraging people to get their hearts checked or enrol in screening programmes for cancer. Marama’s team made it easy for people to get on a track that leads to desirable actions — get their hearts checked, take medication, tell others, be a role model. Now Marama is seeing people use their knowledge to influence others.

Technology spreads the messages
Marama is quick to recognise that technology can spread PHARMAC’s health messages. PHARMAC develops tools and resources that support people to get the healthcare they need. ‘We’re using bright, shiny, new things like apps, underpinned by the fundamental principles of health literacy’, she says. ‘These tools and resources lead people to manage their own health and increase their knowledge. The messages get close to people and connect with them.’

— Rosemary Knight

Go to our website for links to more blogs about health literacy

Read about our workshop Writing Health Information Clearly

01 June 2012

Watch those modifiers!

In English, word order is crucial to meaning.

Here's an important tip for clear writing: if something you write changes the meaning of something else, keep the two things together. When you don't, you're inviting confusion and frequently unexpected hilarity. Take, for example, the sentence:
I was introduced to my wife while travelling through a mutual friend.
Or this example, from Strunk and White:
Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.
I found one of my favourites in a valuation report:
Off the kitchen, there is a small porch with a sink, through which there is access to the garage.
Be particularly careful with words like 'only' and 'almost'. 'I'm sad because my only brother has died' is by no means the same thing as 'I'm sad because my brother has only died'.

In Johnson today, they've posted on a misplaced "ex"
THE Associated Press reported yesterday that
The former top media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron was detained Wednesday on suspicion of perjury in the trial of a flamboyant ex-Scottish lawmaker -- the latest case tied to allegations of wrongdoing by British tabloid newspapers.
Who's that? Ex-what?
Andy Coulson, 44, was detained by Scottish police at his home in London over an accusation related to a high-profile case at Glasgow's High Court, when politician Tommy Sheridan was himself convicted of offering a false account after he successfully sued the now-defunct News of The World tabloid over its claim that he was embroiled in a sex-and-drugs scandal.
Tommy Sheridan's Wikipedia page details much of his "flamboyant" career, but nothing about having renounced his Scottish nationality. What he is is a Scottish ex-lawmaker, not an ex-Scottish lawmaker. As our style guide explains, ex- (and former) should be placed with that thing that has been left behind or revoked:

A Communist ex-member has lost his seat; an ex-Communist member has lost his party.