The use of plain language, the quality of the translation, and the health literacy level of patients for which the translated materials will be provided are the three most important factors when using translated health education materials. Plain language is writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and focused on the audience’s needs . Health literacy is defined as “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
When translating a document, it is important to the original text is written using plain language and consider the cultural context as well as literacy levels of the patients to ensure delivery of accurate and complete health information. Organizations should attempt to provide an accurate translation of the original English text in accordance with federal and state mandates.
An understanding of the target audience, particularly in terms of their culture, is crucial when developing new or translating existing health education materials. Certain topics may be unfamiliar to patients or viewed as sensitive by patients. Pilot testing materials prior to publication will help ensure that they are appropriate for your audience.
- What’s in a Word: A Guide to Understanding Interpreting and Translation in Health Care, National Health Law Program
- Language Policy and Practice in Health Care: More than Words Toolkit Series, Hablamos Juntos
- Getting it Right: A Guide to Buying Translation, American Translators Association
1. Plain Language Act of 2010
2. Healthy People 2010 and Institute of Medicine (2004)