This week I spoke with Lucy Berrington, MS HCOMM ’13, co-author of the Get Covered Guide: Understanding the New Health Insurance. She wrote the guide in spring 2013 as her Applied Learning Experience (ALE).
How did you begin the project?
My preceptor at Enroll America needed an environmental scan of existing outreach and enrollment tools and materials relating to Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP. We were looking at what could be repurposed for the Affordable Care Act effort. As I catalogued those materials we looked for the gaps.
Where did you find the gaps in the existing materials?
I found at least thirty glossaries aimed at helping consumers with health insurance decisions. Unfortunately these tended to be pitched way over the heads of typical consumers. The readability levels tested from 12th to 22nd grade. I decided to create a glossary that would be more comprehensible.
What was your approach to writing the glossary?
I grounded the definitions in real life examples and situations. I consulted with Enroll America partners specializing in policy, health literacy, communication and visual design, and tested the draft glossary in focus groups representing the target audience.
Who is the target audience for the glossary?
It’s for low literacy Americans, especially people who are now eligible for free or low-cost health insurance. It was difficult to write to an 8th grade level, the US average. The terms that had to be defined (e.g., deductible, guaranteed coverage, cost-sharing subsidies) tend to bump up the reading level scores.
What was the distribution strategy for the Get Covered Guide?
I wrote the guide for Enroll America to distribute to their partner organizations that handle outreach and enrollment across the fifty states. In Boston, that includes Community Catalyst and Health Care for All. The guide can also be downloaded from the Enroll America website.
You wrote your guide for a diverse national audience. Was that a challenge?
It was a challenge to come up with a publication that worked on a national scale, because of the uneven Medicaid expansion. I linked to resources providing state-specific information.
Okay, Health Communicators, what do you think? How do principles of health communication influence the design of actual materials? What lessons can practitioners glean from Lucy’s experience with the Get Covered Guide? What other questions do you have for Lucy?
Emily Oppenheimer ‘13, holds her MS in Health Communication from Tufts University School of Medicine. She’s lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Spain, New Mexico, and currently resides in NYC. She’s fascinated by how cultural competence and creative communication can improve health.