“Let’s Talk about the Flu”: Communicating Health Prevention to Hard-to-Reach, At-Risk Populations

Steven W. Sparks, MS | Salon 6

Health Literacy Director, Wisconsin Health Literacy



How do you convince at-risk populations struggling with limited health literacy to take action to prevent illness, especially when it involves getting a shot? This becomes an even greater challenge with populations who have limited English proficiency, don’t have a primary care doctor, may harbor cultural biases and may be uneasy in the American health care system. In this session, you’ll learn how one organization took a public health message to where people live, work, play and pray. Using health literacy-tested print materials in a series of uniquely targeted workshops throughout the state over a three-year period, Health Literacy Wisconsin educated mostly lower health literacy populations, including Spanish and Hmong groups, on what to do if they got the flu. Even more importantly, they learned how to avoid it by getting a flu shot, with documented behavior change. As a result, individuals from these groups reported a significantly higher rate of immunization than the general public. You will learn what the lessons were from year to year and how the educational approach evolved and improved. This session will give you insight and actionable information as to how to deliver an important health message to population groups where compliance is traditionally low and misinformation runs rampant.


Learning objectives:

  • By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:
    • Identify four ways of improving effectiveness of health communications with audiences likely to have limited health literacy
    • State three approaches for successfully connecting with hard-to-reach, at-risk audiences with communication on health improvement
    • Describe three anticipated barriers to successful health prevention communications for at-risk audiences and how to overcome them
    • Summarize the approach made and results achieved in one successful program encouraging influenza immunizations



Improving communication