I have somehow become the family guru of all things health-related. I like to think it’s because my family thinks I’m very intelligent and values my opinion and knowledge of the subject matter…but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m the only one in the family who chose a profession in health care and actually enjoys reading about it. Either way, that’s my role in the family. Have a lab report that you want me to look at? Do you wonder why you have hiccups after surgery? Need me to tell you to go to the doctor because I didn’t go to medical school, even though you’ve told me countless times that I should be one by now? That’s what I’m here for. Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned along the way and have noticed in other health-related sites and posts that non-health people I know have actually read.
Make it entertaining
While the latest statistics of bladder cancer or an inequality issue certainly shouldn’t be trivialized, it’s important to consider what the general population will read. People need something they can relate to, something that may seem relevant to their lives. Because of this, the general population will bypass a scientific article about a health issue in favor of finding out what a celebrity is doing simply because they are familiar with the celebrity’s work. Let’s face it—health will never be as sexy as Brangelina, but we should do our part to make it as entertaining as possible so that we can at least engage our audience. The point is to attract them enough to read the post, so people have to be able to relate it to something. After that, the goal is to give them enough information to highlight the topic and keep them engaged. Graphics and charts are a great way to accomplish this first step, especially with a “clean” design and color palette and using by tools to draw the reader’s attention to the “take away” points. These tools can be putting word in bold, using a different-sized font, or highlighting them in another way. This should, however, not be overdone. For example:
The goal is to attract the reader to remember a few key points while entertaining them with deeper information in between and make them want more information. Which brings me to my next point…..
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly)
It never fails—I’m at dinner with friends, the grocery store, a family function, or any other place where I may talk to people, and the question of what I do for a living will come up. Since nobody knows what a Medical Laboratory Scientist does, I give them the short answer of “I teach people how to work in the lab.” An explanation any longer than that always ends in the same reaction—the other person’s eyes glaze over for a bit and they start looking for the nearest exit.
Since I’ve also been told (usually in the form of “Do we have to talk about this???”) that others aren’t as excited about the newest case of brain-eating amoeba as me, I stick with a saying that I picked up from my dad. K.I.S.S. People don’t care about the type of study performed or the limitations of the statistical measure. They only want to know what it means for them—lifestyle change, avoiding certain foods or locations, and, most importantly, the likelihood that they will be affected.
I often refer to my children as “the microwave generation” because they want everything immediately. Sadly, though, adults fall into this same expectation too. People don’t want to read an article that takes research to interpret. We want to do a quick search, scan the information, and be an expert on the subject matter. Since the average person doesn’t understand medical terminology or pathophysiology to any great extent, this means that the information must be in a form that is easy to understand. This includes words AND images. Who wants a chart that requires a paragraph to explain it? The initial post should only contain the need-to-know information, but feel free to add links for more.
Do the research
I think it should be common knowledge, but be sure to post information only after you have researched it from several sources. However, social media sometimes overrides our rational and careful side. Somebody posted about a woman who got “bugs” from a bra that was made in South America? Oh no, I will always wash my bra before I wear it now. Don’t use Head and Shoulders shampoo ever again? Fine by me. Soda can lids carry a “deadly” bacteria??? I MUST SHARE THIS.
My point is that we tend to lose our minds a little when someone else shares, likes, or posts something that seems mildly possible. As the “professionals”, we are held to a higher standard of fact-checking. The quickest way to lose a reader is to post something erroneous that will make the reader look stupid when they bring it up at their next dinner party. In order to ensure that we are providing accurate and unbiased information, we have to devote several hours in researching the topic from all angles. Besides, how else can you make the post entertaining and K.I.S.S. until after you’ve thoroughly researched it anyway?