Public Health Translation Helps Keep the World Safe

08/27/19

Communication is the key to success in many areas, but there’s nothing quite as important as good communication for public health awareness. When it comes to matters of life and death, knowledge is power. The more knowledge people have, the more they can do to protect themselves from becoming ill or injured. The right words can help people take steps to prevent the spread of disease in the face of disaster.

For example, in the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Devex.com reported that “Women and older people [in Goma]…told us that they didn’t have the information they needed to keep their family safe.” Though there is an experimental vaccine currently available, “they don’t know what ‘vaccine’ is, nor its equivalent in Swahili, ‘chanjo.’ They only know of ‘ndui,’ a Congolese Swahili term that refers to prenatal vaccines.”

6 Best Practices for Public Health Translation

Public health translation makes it easier for the right groups to get the right information to keep themselves and their families healthy. Here are six steps that can help get the message across.

1) Understand the audience.

You might be trying to reach people who have immigrated to the U.S., or your audience might still reside in their native country. Take the steps to zero in on the language they are most familiar with.  

2) Translate for the right reading level.

You want your translations to be as simple and understandable as possible. According to MedilinePlus, your material should “keep within a range of about a 7th or 8th grade reading level” for clarity across all audiences. If you are translating from English into another language, consider a 5th or 6th grade level translation.

3) Be direct and simplify the writing style.

In the public health field, you’ll come across complex words and medical jargon. When translating, use simpler alternatives. If you cannot find an alternative, MedilinePlus suggests that you “teach the terms by explaining the concept first in plain language. Then introduce the new word(s).”

4) Be direct.

Provide sufficient details when giving instructions. Instead of saying “Apply ice to your sprained wrist five times a day,” tell them to “Apply ice to your sprained wrist every two hours for 20 minutes at a time.”

5) Get visual.

Language may be difficult to translate, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Use photos that are clear, and keep captions close to the images. It’s important to localize your images for your target audience. Use pictures that are relatable to the viewer, and be aware of cultural factors that could cause confusion.

6) Choose a company you can trust.

If you need help with public health content translation, we can help. Our professional translators not only understand the target language, but they also specialize in the field in which they are translating. Our worldwide network knows exactly how to translate your content accurately so that the message comes across as intended. Contact us today for more information on helping people stay healthy.

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