Background: The CDC Clear Communication Index (Index) is a research-based tool intended to help professionals develop and assess materials for pubic audiences and foster productive discussions about the most important communication characteristics that enhance clarity. Because of these benefits, the project team used the Index to review the toolkit before gathering feedback from its intended audience and external stakeholders. All but one of the project team members were first-time users of the Index and had not received training on how to use it.
Program background: The Keystone Center, Association for State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)collaborated to develop a web-based toolkit intended to assist state health departments in preparing for and responding to future healthcare-associated infection (HAI) outbreak investigations through sharing of electronic health data. The toolkit identifies best practices and provides resources to support public health professionals. Its content reflects findings from interviews with over fifty public health professionals throughout the U.S., as well as members of the project team and a steering committee who had expertise in HAIs, informatics, law, policy, public health, research and evaluation.
Evaluation Methods and Results: Fourteen project team members received an email invitation to review the content of the toolkit using the Index score sheet with the four introductory questions completed (e.g., intended audience, purpose, and main message identified). One team member received all the score sheets and comments and compiled them into a summary report. Seven project team members responded. All respondents indicated that the toolkit clearly contains one main message, which is front and center; however, the message could be better emphasized with visual cues. Reviewers concurred that information was chunked and that important information was summarized early. Additionally, all reviewers agreed that behavioral recommendations made had a rationale, though there was less agreement on whether enough information was provided on how to perform the behaviors. Suggested areas for improvement included the consistent use of active voice in calls to action and better descriptions of resources that had names with jargon terms in them. There was disagreement among reviewers about whether the toolkit addressed what experts do not know about this subject. Discussions revealed that while the toolkit made no explicit statements of what is not known, reviewers thought that the idea was implied based on what is known about the subject.
Conclusions: The Clear Communication Index provided a way for a diverse set of public health professionals to review a web-based toolkit in a systematic manner that facilitated a productive discussion of ways to improve it. Results and discussions also revealed that is important to have people who were not involved in the development of the materials review and score the toolkit to ensure that implied information is explicitly stated
Implications for research and/or practice: The Index can be used by a variety of public health professionals and can facilitate productive discussions about what can be done to improve clarity.