Frequently Asked Question: How do I recruit participants with limited health literacy skills?

Illustration of a feedback session sign up.

As we may have mentioned once or twice, we ❤ testing with your target audience — especially when the audience is people with limited health literacy skills. Your product will be more useful, relatable, and relevant because of it. But recruiting participants with limited health literacy skills isn’t easy.

After all, you can’t just walk up to someone and ask, “What’s your level of health literacy?” But you can find the right participants by partnering with local, community-based organizations — like adult learning centers, community health centers, social service organizations, and senior centers.

Check out some of these tried-and-true tips to recruit participants with limited health literacy skills:

  • Screen for participants by demographic measures associated with limited health literacy. For example, look for people who have a high school education or below, a low household income (this differs by state, but it’s usually around $40,000 or less), and who haven’t searched for health information online in the last year.
  • Create outreach materials in plain language. Skip terms like “usability” and “participant.” And whatever you do, don’t call it “testing!” Try a phrase like “feedback session” instead. Use a conversational tone to help folks feel more comfortable.
  • Conduct research in a place that’s easy to get to and comfortable for the target audience. We ❤ trusted community centers on public transportation routes.
  • Set a relaxed tone by dressing casually, interacting in a friendly manner, and offering healthy snacks. You don’t want your participants to feel like they’re being tested or studied. Remember, you’re testing the product, not the people.
  • Offer cash incentives when you can. Gift cards and pre-paid credit cards have limitations — they can’t be used to pay bills and other living expenses.

The bottom line: To recruit people with limited health literacy skills, connect with community-based organizations and screen for participants from demographics associated with limited health literacy.


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