Communicating for health

Principle: Understandable

WHO communicates with a wide variety of decision-makers. Some have backgrounds in medicine and public health and rely on WHO for technical information. However, many key audiences are not technical experts. They need information that is easy to understand in order to understand health risks and take appropriate actions.

Planning questions to ensure communications are understandable

To help ensure messages are understandable, communicators should consider these questions in the planning phase.

  • How familiar is your audience with the topic? Does the audience have prior experience with the specific health threat or does your communications need to provide basic information to create awareness?
  • What is your most important message, that is, what do you want your audience to do? How can you highlight it?
  • Does your message clearly state the action you want the audience to take?
  • Can you use photos or illustrations that provide visual reinforcement of the main messages?
  • Are you using language that is familiar to the target audience?
  • Have you, or can you, test your messages with audience members to ensure the meaning is clear?

Background

If WHO-branded content is understandable, people are more likely to trust WHO as a good source of information. In order for WHO to influence decisions to improve health, communications products must be clear and actionable for a wide range of people in diverse circumstances. The component sections of this principle discuss how communicators can ensure messages are understandable by employing tactics such as:

  • using clear and plain language to explain global health issues and guidance;
  • telling stories with a human dimension to make the issues real to those at risk;
  • incorporating visual components that show and enhance WHO content; and
  • communicating in multiple languages, including the six official WHO languages (and more as necessary).

What we do

The principles highlighted in this Framework apply across the whole of WHO’s communications work. Core WHO communications functions are presented below with links to relevant resources.