By Leah Daniel, Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center; Collaborative for Maternal and Infant Health (CMIH), UNC School of Medicine, Show Your Love Initiative Blog Author
The Show Your Love team has a resource center with numerous preconception health topics and preventive visit guides, and the content on ShowYourLoveToday.com is easily sharable and open to the public for printing and distributing. Access, download, share patient education materials on a variety of wellness topics at: showyourlovetoday.com/patient-education. In this blog, we’ll explore best practices for creating engaging patient education content.
Tips for Designing Engaging Patient Education Materials
Communicating health information to diverse groups of people is an important aspect of our work. It is essential to ensure the messages and materials are relevant and appropriate for their intended audience. The Show Your Love Initiative (SYL) developed a series of patient-friendly health education and engagement flyers. Informed by patients and providers, as well as creatives, such as an illustrator, they translated complex medical information to easy-to-read and approachable flyers to support wellness. These printable, shareable resources can be distributed by providers and health teams and help consumers learn more about their health overall, annual visits, and resources to take action. A joint initiative between UNC’s Collaborative for Maternal and Infant Health and the Jordan Institute for Families, the Show Your Love team was kind enough to share how they developed these materials.
Tip 1: Understanding the Audience
Before creating new materials, the Show Your Love team worked to understand where educational gaps existed by talking with people, community leaders, and care team/health providers. Through years of listening and engaging with young adults, the team was able to understand the important factors needed to co-create health resources that were valuable to different communities of young adults. The team completed surveys with women and providers, listening for common questions received by providers during visits as well as topics patients listed as wanting more information.
The Show Your Love team emphasized the importance of multiple surveys to understand different perspectives. They were also able to use the surveys to refine their topics and messaging.
Tip 2: Presentation Matters
After learning which topics were important to stakeholders, the Show Your Love team worked with a media company to understand how people wanted information presented. The team tested numerous layouts, types of content, format of imagery, and more. Here is what they learned:
- Patients want easily digestible information. Overly technical language or multi-page handouts can be overwhelming.
- Setting is important – how the information will be presented, the format available, and who will be introducing or passing along the information all play a role in how patients would like to receive information. Asking patients how and from who they would like to receive information is crucial.
- Checking how a material would be put into practice supports design features. SYL asked providers about what types of media they use in their office. They related that posters and other wall hangings are discouraged by the Joint Commission as an infection prevention measure, meaning that they were more likely to actually use digital flyers that can printed from or shared through the electronic medical record.
Tip 3: Don’t Recreate the Wheel!
Before getting started with any material, it is a good idea to scan what already exists. Perhaps another organization has created something that you could co-brand or tweak for your own purpose. Resource scans can help determine what resources already exist and where you will need to create new information. It is best practice to reach out to organizations to ask if co-branding or adaptation for your target population are options if there are resources already created for a topic.
Tip 4: Considering Tone
Preconception can be a sensitive topic. The SYL team also realizes the term does not resonate with many and can be very vague. It is very important to the team to talk about preconception in a way that does not assume that all people desire pregnancy. In fact, the team stopped using the word “preconception” entirely. Instead, they rebranded the National Preconception Health and Healthcare Initiative to Show Your Love, with a new tag line – Your Health Matters, with a focus on wellness for all.
The SYL team also found that, in addition to the format of information presentation, the tone of the materials mattered quite a bit. Since many of the materials were designed to be handed out by health care providers or sent through an EMR, the tone that the folks surveyed preferred was one that was conversational, providing essential information about the topic, offering connections to more in-depth resources, and guidance on when to follow-up with a provider.
Tip 5: Addressing Language Barriers: Translations Take Time!
Health equity includes addressing language barriers in health education. This can be time intensive but is extremely important. The “ShowYourLove” tagline has nuances that were carefully vetted and tested to truly demonstrate the essence of the campaign, that showing love to yourself by taking steps to be healthy is important! Through their own listserv as well as a larger national survey, the team found a Spanish translation of both the campaign title “Show Your Love” and the tagline “Your Health Matters” that was appropriate across the United States. They found that including time for translation, and multiple revisions, was key when translating materials.
Tip 6: Design is Crucial
The team thought a lot about images and graphics, considering what to include and what kinds of visuals are appealing. It was particularly important to them that people on the materials did not look like models or stock photos. Rather, they wanted their materials to be representative of different bodies, skin tones, abilities, communities, etc. They tried to be as diverse as possible in the imagery so that people could identify with what they were creating and see themselves in the material.
Tip 7: Get Creative! Working With an Illustrator
Collaborating with a creative team is a great way to showcase complex health concepts. Creatives can help bring tricky subjects to life in a way that is easy to quickly understand. The team considered ways to share content with video reels, animated videos, and the use of a graphic illustrator. Working with an illustrator on the patient education materials helped present topics that could feel overly technical if explained using specific medical language. Illustrators can also help to contextualize and interpret large numbers and statistics. Using multiple modalities is helpful from an adult literacy and learning perspective, as is adding icons for specific recommendations or strategies to help with comprehension and recall.
The examples here show how Show Your Love used illustrations to discuss mental health.
Tip 8: Engaging with Folks in Multiple Ways
In addition to the patient education flyers, Show Your Love also made webinars available for providers on the same topics in tandem. They were able to reinforce with medical and public health professionals key information on some of the topics chosen for patient education materials and also address other topics that surveys indicated were of interest to consumers. The webinars, patient education materials, and website allow consumers to access materials and additional information in a number of ways.
In summary, the Show Your Love team hopes to see more co-developed, creative health materials available for patients, particularly with photos and graphics that represent them and their communities. Creative infographics, such as the ones discussed here, are just one way to connect with patients in an engaging way. The SYL team has a resource center with numerous preconception health topics and preventive visit guides, and the content on ShowYourLoveToday.com is easily sharable and open to the public for printing and distributing.
To learn more, visit https://showyourlovetoday.com/patient-education/ for more examples of patient education materials.
Access preconception health patient education materials
Download, print, and share patient educational content today.
You can also access a communications toolkit at https://showyourlovetoday.com/communications-toolkit/. Contact Suzanne Woodward at SuzanneW@med.unc.edu for more information.