Daily Definition Challenge #WordsForHealth

by | Jun 5, 2020 | Public Involvement | 0 comments

Public Involvement describes the ways in which higher education and research is carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them. In this blog category, you will find out about the different ways in which the Faculty involves the public in our events, projects and training opportunities.

In order to communicate and engage with patients and members of the public, it is essential that scientific or healthcare-related literature is easily understood by the audience. To investigate how accessible the scientific language used by healthcare scientists is, the MAHSE (Manchester Academy for Healthcare Scientist Education) Patient Forum launched an interactive social media campaign on Monday 11th May. The campaign, called the ‘Daily Definition Challenge’, aims to help scientists and healthcare professionals identify how some of the words they commonly use aren’t understood by the general public.

The campaign was featured on Twitter over 22 days and used the hashtag #wordsforhealth. Each day, a new link was released to a survey where participants were invited to explain the meaning of a specific scientific word or phrase, such as “gut”, “assay”, “biomarker” or “infection”. Most surveys also asked participants to translate a sentence that contained these words and to say if they found an alternative sentence easier to understand.

The words chosen for the surveys were selected by Blood Scientists and are commonly used in a wide range of healthcare settings. From an initial survey of 40 words, the final 22 selected words were chosen because members of the public either didn’t know their meaning, or translated them as having a different meaning to that intended by the scientists.

This project was initially intended to be conducted during this summer’s Community Festival by filming attendees however, due to the public health COVID-19 crisis, the project had to be adapted for social media. This meant the project was ‘streamlined’ and certain elements were prioritised over others to allow the online surveys to be quick and simple to complete.

The results of these surveys will be used to create an animation targeted at healthcare scientists to raise awareness of the confusion that can be caused between members of the public and healthcare professionals, highlight problematic words and suggest alternatives. The final design will depend upon the results of the surveys, but is likely to include percentages of people who reacted to a word in a particular way, examples of mistranslations, as well as quotes about how people feel when confronted with a word they do not understand. The animation will be uploaded onto YouTube, promoted through social media channels and offered as a teaching resource to other courses and organisations.

Public Contributor Lindsey Brown, who is leading on this project, commented:

We also intend to share information through articles in journals, blogs, social media, at conferences, and within the University. We hope that in raising awareness of which words to avoid and by suggesting alternatives, we will be able to improve the experience of patients in the future.”

You can still access all the survey links until June 26th 2020 here if you would like to take part.

This project has been funded by MAHSE.

For more information about other PPIE events, training and funding opportunities, you can sign up to our monthly digest, visit our website, follow us on twitter or email srbmh@manchester.ac.uk. For further PPIE resources, visit the Faculty’s PPIE Toolkit.


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