Sue Stableford

Sue is a nationally known health literacy expert who trains, consults, engages with research teams, develops print and web-based materials, and publishes in peer-reviewed journals. She works with a broad spectrum of national and local organizations engaged in medical care, community health, and public health. She works across disciplines and health topics, with expertise ranging  from environmental health and chronic disease prevention to shared decision-making. Her work with the University of Rhode Island and RI Department of Health won 2 national Plain Language Awards in 2014.


Masters in Public Health (MPH)

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Masters of Science in Business (MSB)

Husson College, Portland Maine


Health literacy

plain language

and clear health communication. The Health Literacy Institute provides plain language consulting


and materials development. We work in the public and private sectors

in academia

in public health and medicine


Research Interests

Sue participates in research projects as plain language experts. We helped develop the first plain language decision aid (for men with early stage prostate cancer) and helped establish international criteria for patient decision support tools. More recently, Sue was part of a University of Miami (FL) research team that developed a website and booklet about cancer clinical treatment trials specifically for minority communities.

Selected Publications


McCann A and Stableford S. Know Your Audience. Ask Your Audience. In review, Journal of Extension.


Stableford S and Riffenburgh A., 2013.  Lessons from the Workshop Trenches: Challenges in Teaching Plain Language Writing to Health Professionals. Clarity. 70:56-59.


Stableford S. Health Literacy and Clear Health Communication: Teaching and Writing so Older Adults Understand. Chapter 11, pages 323-336 in: Robnett R and Chop W, eds. Gerontology for the Health Care Professional, 3rd ed. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 2013.


  • Engelberth H, Teisl M, Smith A, Frohmberg E, Butts K, Stableford S. Can fish consumption advisories do better? Providing benefit and risk information to increase knowledge. Environmental Research, 2013. 126:232-239.


Stableford S and Mettger W. Plain Language: A Strategic Response to the Health Literacy Challenge. Journal of Public Health Policy, March 2007. 28(1):71-93.


“Evidence-based patient choice: a prostate cancer decision aid in plain language.” (Holmes-Rovner M, Stableford S, et al). BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 2005. 5:16 .

Other Scholarly Activity

Training and presentations 2011 - 2014: training at Boston Children’s Hospital, MA; ongoing training and presentations for MaineHealth system and its members, ME; ongoing Maine statewide trainings for UNE Geriatric Education Center; ongoing health literacy workshops and projects for Maine CDC; workshop presenter at Maine Public Health Association annual meeting 2012; presenter at annual Maximus PlainTalk conference in 2012 and 2013; training for National CDC Radiation Studies Branch, December 2013.

Major Contracted Materials Development Projects (Print and eHealth)

  • Maine Hospital Association: Development of new materials and forms for Health Care Advance Directives
  • Maine Bureau of Insurance: Authored the statewide publication, A User’s Guide to Managed Care Health Insurance in Maine
  • Violence No More, a program for battering men: Development of the participant handbook
  • Food and Drug Administration, Office of Women’s Health: Major review and redesign of key materials for their “Take Time to Care” campaign
  • Health Care Finance Administration: Major reviewer/re-designer of Medicare & You, the guide to Medicare sent to all seniors in the fall of 1999; major reviewer for all HCFA Beneficiary Services publications, 2000 and 2001
  • Maine Ambulatory Care Coalition: Plain language re-write of a training guide/public guidebook about the Maine Children’s Health Program, Covering Kids and Teens, 2001
  • Consultant and reviewer for Pfizer Pharmaceutical Inc. patient education materials
  • Maine CDC: Research, writing, and testing of brochures: Protect Your Family, 2001 and Is Your Well Water Safe to Drink? in 2004 and A Maine Family Guide: Fish: 2 Meals a week for Good Health in 2005/2006.
  • Maine Health Management Coalition: Co-development of an employee communication campaign about quality health care, 2000- 2007. Includes conducting employee focus groups and development of web-based information.
  • Maine Medical Center CarePartner Program: Researched, wrote, and tested the handbook for Maine’s no-cost health insurance program for adults at 150% of poverty: CarePartners Member Guide, 2002; revised 2005.
  • Health literacy consultant/co-author of the plain language decision guide, Making the Choice: Deciding What to Do About Early Stage Prostate Cancer, a project sponsored by the Prostate Cancer Action Committee of the Michigan Cancer Consortium, 2003
  • Maine Legal Services for the Elderly: Plain language consultant and editor for the Know Your Rights series of 10 plain language brochures for seniors about important legal issues.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital: Development of prototype plain language research consent form for use with patients in research projects and clinical trials, 2004
  • State of Maine and Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield: Dirigo Choice Healthplan “Welcome Book”, 2005.
  • Health Dialog, Boston MA: Primary author of chronic disease management booklet, Living Well, 2005; ongoing health literacy reviewer for video scripts
  • Maine CDC, 2007 and 2008: 8 easy to read radon information sheets and a standardized lab reporting sheet; direct mail campaign materials for lead poisoning prevention
  • Maine HealthInfoNet project: Development of consumer materials to explain and gain patient consent for Maine’s statewide electronic health information database system, 2008.
  • Rhode Island Department of Health: Consumer guide to well water testing, 2009 –2010; series of 25 consumer Tip Sheets to identify and remediate well water problems, 2012-2013.

These Tip Sheets were awarded the 2014 national ClearMark Award of Distinction. The introductory Tip Sheet won “Best in Category”.

  • MaineHealth, Portland Maine: Plain language medical writer for multiple medical specialty units, including orthopedics and urology, 2011
  • Dartmouth Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, 2011: Plain language rewrite of research consent template and thesaurus
  • University of Miami, FL, website for Cancer Clinical Trials, 2010-12: plain language writer and contributor to overall website design. Produced the booklet, Cancer Research Choices.
  • Clear Language Group: Primary writer for group website,
  • Health Literacy Summer Institute: Primary writer for Institute website,
  • Center for Community Health Improvement, Massachusetts General Hospital: Developer and writer of plain language instruction booklet about how to use the MGH patient portal; developed message for poster inviting patients to use the portal; collaborated with graphic artist on overall design concepts and text layout for both pieces, 2013.
  • Plain Language Summary of annual report to the Maine State legislature: 2014 Annual Report: Healthcare-Associated Infections in Maine. Wrote text and designed text layout, 2014.

Sue Stableford


M.P.H, M.S.B.

Director, Health Literacy Institute

Linnell Hall

(207) 221-4567