Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

Identifying Inclusive Communication Methods to Share Health Equity Work

The type of language used to disseminate information is equally as important as the message itself. As described in Module 2, using inclusive language that is free of jargon can ultimately improve how community members interpret and respond to messaging about health equity. The No Barrier Health Equity for All toolkit provides guidelines for employing inclusive language when disseminating products:

  • Use person-first language
  • Avoid using gender-specific terms
  • Use plain language
  • Avoid the use of stereotypes and generalizations to describe individuals or groups
  • Be cognizant of words or phrases that “rank” and “prioritize” individuals or groups. For example, instead of using phrases like minority groups or minorities, try using terms like people or communities of color

Inclusive communication methods may also involve translating messages and products into different languages. Many rural populations have limited English proficiency. Disseminating messages in multiple languages may be essential to communicating with rural residents affected by health inequities. Rural communities should also carefully consider the literacy level of the population. The New Mexico Department of Health's Equity in Communications report suggests using pictogram-style images to reach populations with low literacy.

Translation involves a deep understanding of both languages to appropriately recreate meaning and expression in each language. The National Academy of Medicine created a list of considerations for communities seeking to effectively and equitably translate materials:

  • Comprehensive Translation – Using a professional translator can help to avoid mistranslations and ensure accuracy. Laypeople who speak the language should not be asked to translate in situations requiring a knowledge of specific vocabulary, like in medical appointments.
  • Context Matters – Effective translations often require a rich understanding of the languages and the different people who speak those languages. Rural communities may need to identify local dialects and engage community members in the translation process. For example, some migrant farmworkers from Latin America only speak indigenous languages, such as Mixteco or Zapoteco. Programs can involve community members in reviewing professional translations to ensure accuracy.
  • Plain Language – Federal plain language guidelines encourage writers to be clear and concise. Translators may need to adapt materials to ensure that the language is at the appropriate reading level and flows in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Pretest Materials – Pretesting materials allows for constructive feedback and revisions prior to implementation.
  • Listen to All Feedback – When modifying materials and messages based on the feedback received, writers should be receptive to both positive and negative feedback.
  • Audience as a Resource – Including the intended audience in the distribution and application of materials can help ensure products are being disseminated to communities that experience inequities.

Translating research can empower marginalized communities to engage in programs, mobilize for policy change, and participate in future research aimed at achieving health equity on their own terms.

Resources to Learn More

The Equitable Access Implementation Playbook: Communication Guidebook
Details five key steps for developing an effective communication plan for disseminating research. Covers identifying audiences, creating key messages, implementing a communication plan, and monitoring its effectiveness. Discusses modes of conveying messages with an emphasis on the use of digital and social media platforms.
Organization(s): American Institute for Research (AIR)
Date: 11/2015