Posted By Lexington Writing Firm on 12/30/2021

In Response to Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts

In Response to Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts

In partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Center for Health Justice, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently released Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts. 

Designed for physicians and other healthcare professionals, it provides alternatives for at-times problematic words commonly used in healthcare, as well as an exploration of dominant narratives within healthcare. It concludes with a glossary of key terms and concepts.

The guide serves as one of the most comprehensive health equity communication resources. Guides such as these are an essential step toward more inclusive language.

Language Matters

As a writing firm, we spend a lot of time thinking about language — about the words we use and how we use them, their intent vs. potential impact. Though these nuances may feel like splitting hairs, the words we use carry great weight, particularly when it comes to communicating about health. 

The AMA guide provides a list of recommendations on certain words or phrases to avoid, like “vulnerable,” “marginalized” and “high-risk.” Instead of saying “marginalized communities,” the guide proposes “groups that have been economically/socially marginalized.”

Though not an exhaustive list, these recommendations are essential for being mindful of the phrases we use — often without thinking — and their potential impact. 

Another such resource is the Diversity Style Guide, which contains more than 700 terms related to race/ethnicity, disability, immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol, geography, and more. Both guides provide alternatives to phrases or terms that may be stigmatizing.

Advancing Narratives

The guide also discusses the concept of dominant narratives, and how they may impede your ability to communicate with empathy and an awareness of social and historical context. 

In the cases of weight, drug/alcohol use and preventive care, attributing health conditions to personal choice without an acknowledgment of systems and environments places sole responsibility on the individual and neglects to consider equity in the greater society. The AMA guide says, “It is almost impossible to be or stay healthy in an unhealthy environment.” 

At Lexington Writing Firm, we believe that respectful communication is the foundation of trust, and that content should acknowledge systemic or social influences that impact an individual’s or a community’s health. This approach aims to reduce feelings of shame and encourage patients to feel heard or understood.

We create communications that are cognizant of dominant and destructive narratives and are continuously pushing to further evolve the standard for healthcare content. To do so, we use the latest recommendations on inclusive language and leverage our Network of Experts and industry leaders. 

Key Takeaways for Healthcare Communicators and Marketers

As a healthcare marketer or communicator, these insights are helpful for understanding the current best practices and creating more inclusive, trust-building content. 

Takeaway 1: Every word counts

The language we use matters, and it shapes the way we view the world. When it comes to healthcare communications, it is imperative to speak inclusively and in a way that reduces stigma.

Takeaway 2: Stay up to date

The AMA’s guide is a great foundation for inclusive content. Another resource is the Diversity Style Guide. Both offer support and guidance when aiming to write in an informed and respectful way about audiences outside of yourself or your experience. 

Takeaway 3: Understand your audience

Another consideration outlined in the AMA’s guide is how to keep the intended audience in mind when developing content. Understanding a patient’s unique perspective or factors that may contribute to their health and well-being will help you create content that connects more deeply with them. 

At Lexington Writing Firm, our sensitivity review and language barrier review processes are a built-in way to ensure that all content is created with a deep understanding of the audience, their questions and concerns. 

Want to create more inclusive, trust-building content? Email to learn more about our expertise. 


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