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How Interactive Guides Can Promote Tough Conversations About Health

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There’s never been a more important time to encourage people to talk about their health. These health info graphics can help get the conversation started!

COVID-19 cases remain unchecked, a mental health crisis is unfolding, opioid-related deaths are on the rise, the health challenges Americans struggled with before the pandemic have been exacerbated, and as a result of the systemic racism that pervades our healthcare system, all of these issues affect people of color disproportionately.

Through conversation, we all have the power to inspire our loved ones to make better health choices. However, these conversations can be tricky. Many people avoid talking about health because they feel like they don’t know where to start, they worry they don’t have the information they need, or they fear the conversation won’t make a difference.

Interactive discussion guides can help. Based on my team’s research and my experiences developing interactive discussion guides as a digital product manager at the Ad Council, I’ve compiled 10 things to keep in mind when developing a guide to help users share health concerns with a loved one:

1. Give users permission to have the conversation.

Assume users will be anxious and concerned about taking action. Early on in the experience, validate a user's concerns about their loved ones. Reinforce the tangible impact that a good conversation can have, and remind them that they don’t need to be an expert to make a difference. To minimize the pressure a user might feel, promote several small conversations instead of one big one.

A conversation guide for teens to talk to a friend about their about mental health on SeizeTheAwkward.com

2. Provide quality information to build confidence.

Make sure the guide includes facts, images, and resources users need to get educated about an issue. To ensure they’re prepared, highlight or address common misconceptions that might arise during a conversation. Remember to cite sources along the way.

3. Make it relevant.

When possible, aim to deliver personalized tips or suggestions based on relevant factors. These could include things like a user’s experience with a subject, the age of a loved one, or whether it’s a first conversation or a follow-up. In practice, this might look like a standard survey, a filtering system, or a logic flow.

A conversation guide for adults to talk to loved ones experiencing memory changes on Alz.org/OurStories.

4. Provide a starting point.

Give users clear recommendations for how to get started. This includes suggestions about when to have a conversation and some suggested language for how to approach a particular issue. While most audiences will personalize sample language, it helps to reinforce suggested tone.

5. Avoid setting up a lecture.

Encourage users to begin conversations with open-ended questions to understand their loved one’s point of view. This helps to get to the root of the problem and positions the conversation as an act of love. It also makes the conversation feel less rehearsed and can help to establish an ongoing open dialogue for the future.

A conversation guide for parents to talk to their children about vaping on TalkAboutVaping.org

6. Prepare users for various outcomes.

Provide examples of the positive and negative reactions a user might experience if they use the suggested language. This can be illustrated using a sample script or a simulated conversation experience like a chatbot. Showing different scenarios helps users process their feelings before a conversation and react less emotionally in the moment.

7. Keep it simple.

Share information in a clear, easy-to-follow structure. Start with a few simple sentences and provide options for users to delve deeper and connect to extra resources if desired. But keep it simple—this should be a guide, not not an encyclopedia about the issue.

8. Provide multiple formats.

If the primary experience is on a website, consider providing options for sharing over email sharing, downloading as a PDF or printing.

9. Explain what should happen next.

Be clear about how the conversation fits into a larger health journey. Explain how a user should follow up, and connect them with resources to guide that process. If the experience focuses on an issue that might require multiple small conversations rather than one big one, encourage a user to make a plan for next time.

A conversation guide for teens to talk to a friend about their about mental health on SeizeTheAwkward.com

10. Do what makes sense for the issue and the user.

Remember that these are considerations, not a magic formula. Every issue poses unique challenges. Testing assumptions with users early and often is critical for success. And depending on the issue, working closely with psychologists and other medical experts can be helpful, too.


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