Aiming for equity in health materials

Alt. Above the word “Equality” 3 doodles of different heights stand on 3 same size boxes. They try to see over the fence to watch a baseball game, but the shortest scribble still can’t see over the fence. Above the word “Stock” are the same 3 scribbles behind the same fence, but the short scribble gets 2 boxes, the medium scribble gets 1 box, and the tall scribble gets no box. This way they can all see over the fence.

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we really enjoy talking about how health communicators (like you) can help address health disparities. And as COVID-19 affects some groups more than others, addressing the disparities in our health materials is as urgent as ever.

So this week we want to take a closer look at the difference between equality and: equity. George Washington University has a great resource that explains the difference, but we’ll give you a quick summary:

  • Equality means giving equal resources or opportunities different people or groups. Think of a food bank that offers all its customers a standard box of food.
  • Equity means giving each person or group the resources or opportunities they need to achieve equal the result. So maybe the same food bank offers customized food boxes based on the household size and dietary needs of customers, and has a delivery service for people who can’t physically get to the food bank.

How does this apply to health communication, you ask? Providing everyone with the same information in the same format does not mean that everyone will have equal access.

While you’re developing health materials, get to know your audience, or better yet, actively involve people in your target audience in your content creation process.

Then ask yourself how you can ensure equal outcomes for as many people as possible, especially those who face structural barriers or disadvantages. For example, depending on your audience, you can:

  • Create bilingual materials to help reach audiences with limited English proficiency
  • Partner with trusted messengers to increase your credibility with marginalized communities
  • Make sure your web content is accessible all –that means taking into account things like alt text, keyboard navigation, color contrast, etc. more
  • Use pictograms to present key ideas in a way that is accessible to people with limited literacy skills, cognitive disabilities, or other communication disabilities.

Bottom line: To address health disparities, move beyond one-sided communication materials and remember that equal resources do not always lead to equal outcomes.

Tweet about it. Equal resources do not mean equal results. So in your #HealthLit materials, go beyond the one-and-done says @CommunicateHlth: #HealthDisparities #HealthEquity

Thanks to the image inspiration Institute for Interaction for Social Change and: Angus Maguire.

Aiming for Equity in Health Materials was originally published on wehearthealthliteracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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