Adding visual elements to patient education pamphlets

by Kallen Rutledge on 2024-05-21T08:30:00-03:00 in Citation, Copyright, Health literacy, Images, Patient Education, Patient Pamphlet | 0 Comments

Research shows that including visual elements in written patient education materials can increase patient understanding. This is particularly true for patients with low health literacy. For this reason, many Nova Scotia Health patient education pamphlets include icons, diagrams, and photographs. These visual elements:

  • Add valuable visual information that complements the written text
  • Can increase a reader’s understanding and recall of clinician guidance

The Patient Education Pamphlets team has a small collection of anatomical diagrams and icons available to include in patient education pamphlets. If you need a diagram of a particular body part or system, the team may be able to help you find something suitable. If you would like to add a specific visual element to your pamphlet:

  1. It must add to the reader’s understanding of the content. Additions merely for aesthetics or design will be excluded.
    Remember: Adding icons, diagrams, and photographs increases a pamphlet’s page length and printing costs (particularly if the pamphlet is printed in colour).
  1. It must be representative and respectful of Canada’s diverse populations.
  2. It must follow applicable Canadian copyright law. Find more information about this by visiting the Using Images and Permissions pages of the Copyright subject guide.

Did you know? Nova Scotia Health team members must pay to use stock images from websites like Getty Images, iStock, and Shutterstock. Be cautious when assuming something is “free” to use. An image may be labeled “royalty free”, but still require payment for use. For more information, visit the Copyright subject guide.

Octapharma©. (2021). Fibryga© with water for injection co-pack. Octapharma©. www.octapharma.ca

 Commercial logos and images of specific medical equipment and products can only be used if written permission has been obtained from the equipment or product owners. The Copyright team can help with this.

Questions? Contact the Copyright team at: Copyright@nshealth.ca.

  1. All images submitted for inclusion in a patient education pamphlet must be high resolution. This means they should be greater than 300 pixels per inch or a .jpg file with a file size of around 1 to 1.5 MB.
    TIP To avoid your image being compressed when sending, do not add it to a Word document; send it as an email attachment or use MOVEIt (https://sfts1.gov.ns.ca/) to share the file(s) with a Patient Education Pamphlets team member (Important: the email account Pamphlets@nshealth.ca cannot receive MOVEit files).

Many Canadians struggle to read and understand health information. Adding visual elements to patient education pamphlets is one way to help improve communication between health care providers and patients, and help the material be more inclusive of those with low health literacy.

The Patient Education Pamphlets Team is happy to help make sure your patient education materials are easy to read and understand, including helping you choose the right icons, diagrams, or photographs. Reach out to us at Pamphlets@nshealth.ca or visit the Content Creator Toolkit to get started.


1. Park, J., & Zuniga, J. (2016). Effectiveness of using picture-based health education for people with low health literacy: An integrative review. Cogent Medicine, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/2331205X.2016.1264679

2. Schubbe, D., Scalia, P., Yen, R. W., Saunders, C. H., Cohen, S., Elwyn, G., van den Muijsenbergh, M., & Durand, M.-A. (2020). Using pictures to convey health information: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects on patient and consumer health behaviors and outcomes. Patient Education and Counseling, 103(10), 1935–1960. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2020.04.010

3. Tiwari, R. R., Pandey, B., & Chaudhari, K. S. (2023). Image-Based Communication for Strengthening Patient Health Education in Rural and Underserved Settings. Cureus, 15(7), e41279. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.41279

Kallen Rutledge

Librarian Educator, Patient Education Pamphlets Lead
Nova Scotia Hospital, Central Zone

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