Articles

For 10 years Helen Osborne was a columnist for On Call magazine, published by a division of Boston Globe Media. Her monthly “In Other Words…” column focused on many aspects of health communication, patient education, and health literacy. Sadly, the magazine stopped being published in 2009. Happily, many of the articles are still timely and relevant.

Below are about 100 of Helen’s columns. They are listed in chronological order. To find what you need, enter key terms in the search box on the upper right.  Email Helen for reprint permission.

  • Talking Health to Men
    March 27, 2009
    The differences between men and women go beyond anatomy and physiology. One very important one is the way men and women take in, process, and use health information. Joe Zoske, MS, MSW, says gender is a component of health literacy and cultural competence. Zoske is the administrative coordinator of the BSW Social Work Program at Siena ...
  • Project RED: The Reengineered Hospital Discharge Program
    February 24, 2009
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, February 24, 2009 Brian Jack, MD, is a practicing physician and professor of family medicine at Boston University. Several years ago, a patient came to see him for a follow-up appointment after being discharged from the hospital. Jack had not treated this man before, ...
  • Working With Lawyers to Make Health Information Clear
    January 29, 2009
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, January 29, 2009 I often lead plain language workshops, teaching clinicians and other health communicators how to convey health messages more clearly. Plain language goes beyond simple words and short sentences. It includes organizing information from the reader’s perspective, setting a tone that invites readers to ...
  • Pediatric Cough and Cold Medicine: Helping Patients Make Sense of Information from the FDA
    December 31, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, December 31, 2008 Your 5-year-old daughter wakes up in the middle of the night, sniffling and coughing. You want her to feel better and help everyone in the house get back to sleep. So you give her a dose of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine. ...
  • Health and Health Literacy Information Resources From the NLM
    December 5, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, December 4, 2008 Marcia E. Zorn, MA, MLS, helps professionals and the general public find the health information they need. Answering questions is part of her job. Zorn is a reference librarian at the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Reference & Web Services Section. The NLM ...
  • Talking With Patients About Touchy Subjects
    November 13, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, November 13, 2008 Sexual dysfunction, depression, and abuse are only a few of the many touchy” topics patients find hard to bring up to their healthcare providers. But these very problems could actually be at the root of what is happening to them medically. Machelle Seibel, ...
  • Tools of change: Telling and listening to stories
    October 16, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, October 16, 2008 Molly Catron is a lifelong story listener and teller. Growing up, she learned about life from stories that her father and grandfather told. Later, as an analytic chemist, manager, and internal organizational consultant for a manufacturing company, Catron used stories to facilitate ...
  • Necessary Programs
    October 9, 2008
    By Joseph Saling, On Call Magazine Editor October 9, 2008 Click here to read this month’s Letter from the Editor in On Call Magazine. It highlights 10 years of Health Literacy Month accomplishments.
  • Using text messages to improve medication adherence
    September 18, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, September 18, 2008 The teenager’s cell phone rang telling him he was getting a text message. He opened it and read, “Hi. Remember to take your medication.” Then he closed his phone and went back to whatever it was he was doing. And oh yes, ...
  • Using comics to communicate your health message
    August 22, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, August 21, 2008 Kapow! What a novel idea! Comics that tell health stories to get word out about important health issues! Glenn Herdling knows how effective this can be. He’s the director and editor-in-chief of Creative Resources at Medco Health Solutions in New Jersey. He’s also ...
  • Bridging Literacy and Language Differences for Better Health Outcomes
    July 24, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, July 24, 2008 Mr. R works as a day laborer for a landscaping company. He, along with others from a small Mexican village, comes to the U.S. each year for this work. Now Mr. R is at your clinic because of a sprained ankle. You ...
  • Questions Are the Answer to Helping Patients Understand Their Health
    June 25, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, June 25, 2008 The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is charged with improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of healthcare for all Americans. So why is AHRQ producing “Questions Are the Answer” — an upbeat, musical consumer campaign that encourages patients ...
  • Communicating Health Information Through Community Coalitions
    June 5, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, June 5, 2008 Making health information clear is not always easy. Getting this information to the people who need it can be even harder. Sometimes, the best way of doing both is to form a community coalition. Reaching a broader audience Jan Potter works as a communication ...
  • Using Visuals and Other Creative Tools to Make Health Messages Clear
    May 8, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, May 8, 2008 When Bill Smith, EdD, was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, he and colleagues faced the challenge of educating people in a rural village about malaria. One teaching strategy they used was to project pictures of mosquitoes on a screen ...
  • Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Other Healthcare Shorthand
    April 10, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, April 10, 2008 Imagine what it’s like to be suddenly injured or ill. You or your family member calls 911. EMTs arrive and take you to the nearest ER or ED. You or someone in your family is given a lot of paperwork, including HIPAA ...
  • Using Music and Song as Tools of Health Communication
    March 24, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, March 24, 2008 Some days, his tools are a stethoscope and prescription pad. Other days, they include a microphone and guitar. But whichever tool he is using, Mache Seibel, MD, is actively educating people about health and wellness. Seibel, aka “Doc Rock,” is a practicing ...
  • Helping Patients Separate True Health Information From False
    February 28, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, February 28, 2008 Your grandmother has arthritis and is desperately seeking a cure. She recalls reading that someone (she can’t remember who) in some newspaper (she can’t recall which one) said that shark cartilage is helpful. You know this is not the case and that ...
  • Actively Listening for What Patients Do Not Say
    January 31, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting You’ve just finished teaching a patient about his new blood pressure medication. You focused on only a few key points. You clearly explained why, how, and when he should take his medication and what to do if a problem arises. Then you asked the patient to teach-back ...
  • A Passion for Communication: Occupational therapist Helen Osborne advocates for health literacy
    January 14, 2008
    A Passion for Communication: Occupational therapist Helen Osborne advocates for health literacy
  • How Memory Affects Health Understanding
    January 10, 2008
    By Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L President of Health Literacy Consulting On Call Magazine, January 10, 2008 You just walked ten minutes each way to pick up four needed items at the grocery store. Now that you’re home, you realize you forgot one of them. This forgetfulness is likely due to limits of your working memory, which, according to ...