Jan Catano’s interest in clear language started in university, and grew along with her frustration with 500 word essays. Why, she wondered, do I have to write 500 words when I can cover the topic clearly in far fewer words? Or what if I need more
The interest in clarity and brevity bloomed when as a volunteer teacher for the Prepared Childbirth Association of Nova Scotia, she struggled to explain the intricacies of pregnancy, birth, and the health care system to young parents-to-be. This led to her first publication, “Teenage Pregnancy: A Resource Kit.” It used clear language and cartoons to help teens understand both their pregnancy and their options. This, in turn, led to the School of Health Education at Dalhousie and a Master’s Thesis with a typically academic title: “Assessing the Reading Level of Prenatal Education Material for Pregnant Adolescents.”
At this point, Jan has been a Health Education Consultant for over 30 years with expertise in developing health education materials for people with low literacy skills. Lessons learned while working with committees and individuals, with federal and provincial governments, and with non-profit organizations have boiled down to the key insight that guides Jan’s work: Everything depends on the reader. Whether material is readable depends entirely on the reader. What’s readable for one audience might be completely incomprehensible to another.
With this understanding, Jan applies her skills and experience to produce materials designed to meet the needs of specific audiences. Her area of expertise is health, focusing on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. She has also developed materials on a variety of other issues, including policy and its impact on communities, and gambling.
Jan’s services include plain language writing, consultation and pre-testing; report and proposal writing; and research. She also offers workshops on developing and evaluating printed materials.
Her work includes:
- Concerned about your Gambling? and Concerned about Someone’s Gambling?, workbooks for people addressing problems with gambling
- Loving Care, a public health resource for parents of children from birth to age three
- How to Feed Your Baby with Infant Formula, information for parents who have made an informed decision to feed their babies with formula
- SEX?—A Healthy Sexuality Resource, a resource for youth age 12 to 17
- Turning the Tide: Why Acting on Inequity Can Help Reduce Chronic Disease, an information and action kit to increase awareness and understanding of the links between inequity and chronic disease in Atlantic Canada
- Voices of Experience: What Seniors Have to Say about Impacting Policy, ten lessons learned by seniors during a project to help them learn how policy affects their lives and how they can help to make or change it
- Preventing Falls Together: A Population Health Tool Kit aimed at reducing falls among seniors
- Good Policy, Good Health, an information and action kit for women in coastal communities
- Basic Information about Social and Economic Inclusion, an information package explaining the basic concepts underlying inclusion
- A Healthy Start for School, information for parents as their child begins school
- Spread the Word: CAPC Works, a resource kit to facilitate publicizing CAPC programs in the Atlantic Region
- Nobody’s Perfect, a national parenting program
- Ready or Not, a national resource for parents of pre-teens
- A New Life, Nova Scotia’s prenatal program
You’ll find pdfs of:
Loving Care (four booklets) and How to Feed Your Baby with Infant Formula: http://novascotia.ca/dhw/lovingcare/
SEX—A Healthy Sexuality Resource: http://novascotia.ca/dhw/healthy-development/documents/11032_SexBook_En.pdf