As president and founder of Plain Language Works (formerly Riffenburgh and Associates) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Audrey Riffenburgh has trained over 1,500 health professionals in plain language and health literacy. Her goal is to help these professionals create easy-to-read, highly-effective print and web-based health information for consumers, patients, and their families. Her consulting services include speaking and training, producing reader-friendly documents, and facilitating organizational change toward a plain language culture.
As a forerunner in health literacy and an advocate for plain language, Audrey Riffenburgh deserves high praise for the contributions she has made to the field. When she began consulting and training in 1994, she was one of the few practitioners addressing health literacy. Her customized workshops and numerous conference presentations have shed light on the crucial need for health literacy and have provided much-needed instruction on effectively communicating health information.
Riffenburgh’s research reveals that most health care information created for the public is not usable by the public. By focusing on the intended audience of health information and assessing reading levels, Riffenburgh shows her clients and their employees how to alter their written messages and redesign layout so that readers can first understand the information and then make important decisions based upon it.
To augment her oral presentation and facilitation during workshops, Riffenburgh provides participants with a handbook that covers planning techniques, writing style, readability tests, design and layout, cultural influences, and usability testing. The handbook also includes exercises and quick-reference checklists that trigger recall and help participants apply the knowledge and skills they’ve learned.
As a testament to Audrey Riffenburgh’s effectiveness as a trainer, participants describe her workshops as “invaluable,” “clear, practical,” and “extremely well-designed.” Indeed, they commend her kindness, insight, and sense of humor, as she introduces “a new and frustrating concept [readability],” leads them through knowledge and skill acquisition, and points them toward mastery.
Clearly, Audrey Riffenburgh should be recognized by the Association of Professional Communication Consultants for the excellence of her training and her long-term commitment to improving the communication skills of health care professionals. Congratulations, Audrey. Anyone who is served by the professionals you train will benefit from your contributions.