Health Literacy Consulting
How To Use Visuals When Teaching In-Person
Maybe you know visual learners like me—people who learn best when seeing drawings and photographs or watching demonstrations. Often, visuals go a long way toward helping others understand important health care concepts and instructions.
Here are some ways to use visuals when teaching in-person:
Teach in bite-sized "chunks." When teaching about health, focus primarily on "need-to-know" concepts and actions. Organize this information in a logical way such as from first to last, or most common to least. Then teach this information in bite-sized "chunks" that people can easily understand and act on.
Decide how to illustrate each "chunk." Perhaps you will draw something. You need not be an amazing artist; often, a simple sketch will do. Or you could use pre-drawn illustrations (often sold as tear-off sheets), adding your own words or markings. I spoke with a man who had emergency heart surgery. He said that one of the most helpful ways his doctor explained the problem was with a "heart picture." His doctor marked on an anatomic illustration where his blockage was and how much it was occluded. Years later, this man still has his heart picture.
Supplement with words. "A picture is worth a 1,000 words," is a common saying. But when it comes to teaching about health, a picture alone may not be sufficient. You can make visual messages even more clear by adding simple wording.
Confirm understanding. As with all forms of teaching, confirm that the other person understands. When using pictures you might say, "I want to see if I did a good job drawing this. What does this picture mean to you?"
- Give away your artwork. Several years ago a dermatologist sketched a picture of my mole that she just removed. Her impromptu drawing helped me understand its size and reassured me that the mole was not worrisome. Later, I wanted a second look. But the doctor hadn’t given me her picture. You can help others better understand and remember health messages by letting them keep your artwork.
Ways to Learn More:
- "Comics and Medicine: That's Health Literacy, Too (HLOL #110)." Health Literacy Out Loud podcast interview with MK Czerwiec, who describes herself as "a nurse who draws comics."
- Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition. An award-winning book by Helen Osborne, published by Jones & Bartlett Learning (2011). Includes a chapter on Visuals. Available from the publisher and most online bookstores.
For permission to include Health Literacy Consulting Tips in your organization's newsletter, please contact Helen Osborne by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at: 508-653-1199.