Skip Navigation Archive: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archival print banner

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Creating audience-centered print materials (Text Version)

Slide presentation from the AHRQ 2009 conference.

On September 14, 2009, Kristin Carman made this presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference. Select to access the PowerPoint® presentation (2.37 MB).

Slide 1

Creating audience-centered print materials

Kristin L. Carman, PhD
Pam Dardess, MPH, Sandy Robinson, MSPH
American Institutes for Research

AHRQ 2009 Conference
September 13-16, 2009 

Slide 2

Objectives for today's presentation

  • What does it mean to create audience-centered materials?
  • Show and discuss specific examples of materials that reflect audience-centered principles
  • Communications Toolkit
  • Guides for Treatment Decisions
  • Your Guide to Preventing and Treating Blood Clots

The covers of two documents are shown. The documents are examples of audience-centered materials. One is a pamphlet from AHRQ titled, "Pills for Type 2 Diabetes." The other is a document from the Communication Toolkit materials. 

Slide 3

Creating audience-centered materials

  • Audience-centered materials are:
    • User-focused
    • Evidence-based
    • Culturally appropriate
    • Accessible
    • Actionable 

Slide 4


  • Communication and materials:
    • Reflect the realities of people's lives - their circumstances, attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    • Acknowledge and address users' information needs and concerns
    • Reflect user preferences for formatting and dissemination
  • This requires involving your intended audience throughout the development cycle "test drive" your messages and materials and gather feedback 

Slide 5

Evidence-based development

  • In creating materials, draw on what we know about best practices from fields such as:
    • Health literacy and numeracy
    • Decision science
    • Communication research
    • Dissemination research and social marketing 

Slide 6

Culturally appropriate

  • Materials reflect and speak to your audience's lives and realities
    • Demonstrate understanding of values, behaviors, attitudes, and practices
    • Use appropriate language, examples, pictures

The covers of four pamphlets are shown as examples of culturally appropriate materials. The pamphlets are titled "Healthy Start, Grow Smart: Your 9-month old Baby." One pamphlet cover is in English with an African American baby on the cover. One is in Chinese with an Asian baby on the cover. One is in Spanish with a Hispanic woman and infant on the cover. The final cover is in Vietnamese and shows a mother holding her baby. 

Slide 7


  • Conveys "what's in it for me"
  • Plain language
  • Easy to understand content
  • Easy to read format 

Slide 8

What's in it for the reader?

  • Who should be reading this?
  • What's the benefit for them?
  • What can it tell them or help them to do?
  • What can't it tell them?

The slide shows a page from a guide about osteoporosis treatments. The page describes what is covered in the guide (treatments, how they work, side effects and prices of medicines) along with what is not covered in the guide (osteoporosis treatments for women before menopause or men). 

Slide 9

Plain language

  • Write the way you talk
  • Use active voice
  • Use common words as possible
  • Use short sentences, on average
  • Use pronunciation guides

The slide shows a page from a guide about preventing and treating blood clots. The page illustrates the use of plain language through:

  • Short sentences ("Blood thinners can cause side effects")
  • Active voice ("Your doctor will watch you closely.")
  • The use of bullets to convey information.

The page also includes pronunciation guides for names of medications for example, Coumadin (COO-ma-din). 

Slide 10

Explain unfamiliar terms using examples

The slide shows an excerpt from the Communication Toolkit materials and demonstrates the use of specific examples to help people understand what is meant by medical evidence. It describes medical evidence by providing examples of how medical evidence is used to keep people healthy, catch problems at early stages, decide what tests are best for finding out what's wrong, and which treatments help the most and have the fewest side effects. 

Slide 11

Easy-to-understand content

  • Set the stage and build an information foundation
  • This document explains what it means to get good quality health care and serves as the basis for subsequent documents that talk about how to get good quality care

The slide shows the first page of a document from the Communication Toolkit titled "Good quality health care: What it is and why you can't take it for granted." The document defines good quality health care as care that is based on the latest evidence from medical research about what types of care work best, provided by skilled and knowledgeable professionals who give you personalized attention, safe, and timely. It is being used as an example of easy-to-understand content. 

Slide 12

Easy-to-understand content

  • Avoid information overload
  • Chunk information
  • Brief, but complete

This slide shows an excerpt from a guide about treatment for high blood pressure. The excerpt shows how headings are used to chunk and organize the information. The headings are in blue and the font is black, which helps them stand out. Bullets under the second heading "How do benefits of ACEIs and ARBs compare?" are brief, but summarize the main benefits of each type of drug. 

Slide 13

Easy-to-read format

The top of the page offers optional text that explains that this document is part of a series of documents that can be found on the company's employee website. The accent formatting (i.e., a spiral notepad and green bar used to emphasize the heading) adds visual interest, drawing in the reader and making the material more approachable. The document then provides a numbered list of action steps followed by bullet points that give people specific things that they can do. The formatting of numbered steps and bullets also makes the document easy to skim. In the middle of the page is a "Learn More" icon which again adds visual interest and emphasis and is used to indicate suggested resources. Finally, there is ample white space on the page and the text is broken into blocks which keeps the layout uncrowded and looks easy to read. 

Slide 14


  • Concise bullets
  • Concrete, specific information
  • "At-hand" resources for people who want more information

This page illustrates another example about how to create concise and targeted information. Specifically this page is describing three types of lists you might want to take with you to a doctor's appointment. The first is a list about things you might want to tell or show your doctor. The second is a list of questions you have for the visit and the final one is a list of medications you are taking. The information is grouped in blocked text and broken into bullet points. 

Slide 15


  • Tells exactly what questions to ask and consider
  • One page "at-a-glance" format
  • Space to jot down notes

The top half of the page includes questions to ask your doctor (such as "What are my risks with this option?" and "What kind of follow up care will I get?"). The page is divided clearly using blue boxes and different color fonts. The bottom half has questions for you to think about (for example, "What other information do I need to decide?"). After each question there is space to write down the answers to the questions. At the bottom of the page cites the resource reports that were used for this guide. 

Slide 16


  • Creating reader-centered materials means:
    • Presenting clear, factual information
    • Helping people understand why the information is important to them and how it can be used
    • Making it easy to use the information in context

The challenge is not merely to communicate accurate information to consumers, but to present and target that information so that it is actually used in decision-making 

Slide 17


Slide 18

References and Additional Resources

Slide 19

For More Information

Kristin L. Carman, PhD
Managing Director, Health Policy and Research

American Institutes for Research

Current as of December 2009
Internet Citation: Creating audience-centered print materials (Text Version). December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care