Why are doctors so hard to understand?

This talk will explore the reasons why doctors and patients often struggle to communicate with each other, even when the stakes are so high. Doctors are trained to think and talk about bodies, diseases, and treatments one way, and those of us seeking help have little to no training and often are not at our best when trying to get help. Health literacy is an idea that suggests we as a society can do better when communicating about health. Both the healthcare system and the doctors and patients who struggle to make it work can take steps to improve communication and get better health results.

Dr. Cynthia Baur, PhD is the Director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy. Dr. Baur has worked for thirteen years in significant communication roles with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia and has helped to define best practices for health literate communications. Most recently, she served as the Senior Advisor for Health Literacy and Plain Language in the Office of the Associate Director for Communication. In this role, she created the CDC’s health literacy website, which provides tools to improve health literacy and public health. Her approach is based in communication science and is focused on providing diverse audiences with information in ways they can understand and use.

She focuses on providing clear messages using the appropriate channels for a specific audience to achieve maximum reach.  Her strategy builds in what she calls “dynamic feedback loops” so that the communication process is iterative and self-correcting. She was also a co-creator of the CDC Clear Communication Index, a tool that can be used to help organizations develop and assess the effectiveness of public communication materials. She also developed training programs to educate health professionals about their role in providing health information and services and promoting public health literacy and was lead author and editor of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. Baur earned her PhD in Communication from the University of California, San Diego and her BA in Rhetoric from the University of California, Davis.

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