By CHRISTOPHER SCHOBERT
Published March 7, 2023
“Everyone, no matter how educated, is at risk for misunderstanding health information if the topic is emotionally charged or complex,” according to the National Institutes of Health. As the rise in misinformation demonstrates, health literacy matters now more than ever.
That is the message behind the panel discussion taking place at UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Annual Forum on March 15. The discussion is the centerpiece of the 2023 forum, which will be held in person from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Murphy Family Seminar Room (5019 A&B) at the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. See full agenda and registration link.
CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, says health literacy is about speaking and communicating in a way that is understandable.
“Traditionally, many of us who are health care providers and researchers struggle with that,” Murphy says. “However, it is vital that we communicate what needs to be communicated to people. Listening and understanding builds trust. And if people don’t understand, then it’s hard for them to take control of their own health and participate actively in their health care.”
To assist researchers, the CTSI’s Recruitment Resources Toolkit now features a plain language section, along with a downloadable readability tip sheet.
“We are always available to assist with the development of study materials, but we hope to instill autonomy in research teams to develop plain language content specific for their areas of expertise,” explains Ashley Regling, CTSI clinical recruitment coordinator.
Andy Strohmeier, CTSI integrating special populations coordinator, recently hosted an Open Research Office session on the topic. The session can be watched in its entirety here.
“We must take steps to ensure that the information we present can be understood by as many people as possible — including fellow scientists, allies or community members,” Strohmeier says. “By becoming ‘bilingual’ in plain language, we are that much closer to fostering greater trust in the community and, ultimately, improving health and health literacy for all.”
The annual forum panel discussion is the next step in disseminating information on this critical issue. The panel will feature presentations from two community members and three UB faculty members, followed by a group Q&A. The lineup of panelists:
Murphy believes forum attendees will gain an understanding of the necessity of focusing on improving health literacy. “I hope people come away with an understanding of the importance of our commitment as researchers and health care providers to pay careful attention to improving our language and promoting health literacy,” he says.
The CTSI Annual Forum also will feature a “State of the CTSI” talk from Murphy, along with a presentation from Erica Rosemond, acting deputy (division) director, branch chief and acting section chief, Initiatives & Consortium-Wide Activities Section, Division of Clinical Innovation, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health.