Medical writing vs. health writing: is there a difference?

The difference between health writing and medical writing

Whether you’re seeking information on a new treatment, trying to understand a health condition you’ve been diagnosed with, or you are simply looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you’ve likely come across various forms of health and medical writing.

While these terms are often used interchangeably, it’s crucial to understand the nuanced differences between health writing and medical writing.

Let’s explore the distinctive features of each and shed light on why precision in language matters when it comes to communicating health information.

What is health writing?

Health writing is a broad category encompassing a wide range of content aimed at providing information, advice, and tips about health and wellbeing, usually to the general public.

This may cover nutrition, exercise, mental health, preventative care, lifestyle choices, and much more!

The role of a health writer is to create content that is accessible, engaging, and easily understandable to a diverse range of audiences, regardless of their medical knowledge or levels of health literacy.

Roles for health writers may include:

  • Health blogging or content creation, for patients or the general public
  • Healthcare copywriting for marketing materials, advertisements or promotional / consumer-focused content
  • Nutrition, exercise or fitness writing
  • Patient education writing
  • Health journalism
  • Healthcare PR

What is medical writing?

Medical writing is a specialised form of communication directed towards healthcare professionals, researchers, and regulatory agencies. Medical writers play an important role in translating complex medical information into comprehensible documents, like research papers, reports or regulatory submissions.

This style of writing tends to be highly technical, focusing on conveying scientific information with accuracy and precision.

Roles for a medical writer may include:

  • Clinical research writer – developing protocols, clinical study reports, and other documents relating to clinical trials
  • Regulatory writer
  • Pharmaceutical copywriter – creating promotional materials to market pharmaceutical products
  • Medical communications – creating slide decks, posters, or presentations for scientific conferences
  • Medical education / CME writer
  • Health economics and outcomes research writer
  • Publication writer or manager – managing the writing and publication process for scientific articles, abstracts and posters
  • Medical editor

Why does the difference between health writing and medical writing matter?

While both types of writing share the overarching goal of promoting health and wellbeing, they each cater to distinct audiences and serve very different purposes.

  • Health writing aims to empower the general public with accessible health information
  • Medical writing is a specialised field aimed at communicating complex scientific data to professionals in the healthcare and research sectors.

Writers may span both areas, or chose to focus on a single type of writing. Recognising and appreciating these differences is essential for producing effective and targeted health-focused communication.

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My name is Rachel Pascal. I am a specialist health and medical writer with a decade of experience covering both health writing and medical writing.

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