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Beginnings Guides Blog

Promoting Health Literacy with Beginnings Guides (or other materials) Part 1. Does the info fit the learner?


Maternal health literacy: the cognitive and social skills and motivations that
enable a mother to use information and services in ways that maintain or
enhance health [1].
 
If the information does not fit the learner, it cannot increase her ability to
use information and services in ways that promote health. So a first step to
promoting health literacy in mothers, or any group, is to select information
- content and materials- that is attractive, acceptable, persuasive and
memorable for the intended users.
 
The SAM Suitability Assessment of Materials by Len and Cici Doak and Jane Root
is a good guide for an at-your-desk review of health education materials.
Of course, only your readers know for sure, so they must have the final review
and the final word on how well materials engage, inform and motivate them,
so they will pick them up,read and understand them, and most important, act
on the information.  SAM is most useful for rating the “fit” between information
and your audience (which, I assume here, you know well and in depth). It ensures
an objective review based on adult learning research, rather than on personal
preferences and opinions. SAM rates content and its presentation on 21 factors
in six domains. Today we’ll consider what makes content effective, using the
 
Purpose: Make it immediately clear  Potential readers must grasp the purpose
of the information in the few seconds they allot to deciding whether or not to
read it. If they don’t clearly perceive that the materials are for and about them
and a problem they have now, you’ve already lost them. If they don’t toss the
materials before reading, they may miss the main points.
 




The Pregnancy Guide gets a superior rating,
because for each of the six booklets in the
series, the purpose is explicit in the title,
the illustration and the introduction.

 

 





Topics: Talk about what to do to achieve the purpose Adults learn to solve a
problem they have now. They are rarely interested in medical facts. They want
and need to know what to do, why and how. This brings to mind a brochure
titled “Care of the Newborn Penis” whose author shall remain anonymous. It’s a
good explicit title, but the first 5 panels are full of details that only a doctor
could love. The final paragraph says it all, “The best course is to leave it alone.”
Unfortunately, most mothers would not wade through the unnecessary information
to get to the part that matters.
 
In testing the Pregnancy Guide, we learned an important lesson: Delete the part
about what not to do. It only adds extra words and confusion. The original text
said, “Take a warm, not hot bath.”  But readers recall the last part of the sentence.
So they remembered “Take a hot bath.” Testers clearly understood “warm”, so we
revised the text to read simply, “Take a warm bath.”
 




To get an “Adequate” rating, at least 40% of
topics focus on desirable behavior. The Pregnancy
Guide gets  Superior because content emphasizes
applying knowledge aimed at behaviors that lead
to a health pregnancy and a health baby.
 

 





Summary & Review: Retell key messages  Adults learn by repetition. Ideally, say
the most important thing, the key message, three times - in short familiar words,
in an example and in a visual.
 




The Pregnancy Guide gets a Superior rating
here because key messages are told and
retold in different ways throughout the
materials.
 


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