Launch of New Evidence-Based Messaging Toolkit

Helping to Dispel Public Misunderstandings About Care for Serious Illness

Launch of New Evidence-Based Messaging Toolkit

PORTLAND, Ore. (Jan. 9, 2023) - Message Lab, a project funded by Cambia Health Foundation and The John A. Hartford Foundation, announces the release of a new messaging toolkit aimed at improving public understanding about care for serious illness.

Developed from a decade of research and insight gleaned from a consortium of organizations in the field of serious illness care, the project aims to improve the way health care professionals communicate about care for serious illness to make it more understandable and accessible to the public. The evidence-based messaging is housed on the newly launched Serious Illness Messaging Toolkit website. Designed to equip medical professionals, advocates, and others who speak to the public, the toolkit contains easy-to-use messaging principles, tested messages, and visuals to use when talking to the public. A major focus of the toolkit content is to emphasize the benefits of care for serious illness and its potential to help people live well with such illness.

One type of care, palliative care, is specialized health care for people of all ages living with a serious illness that aims to improve the individual's and their family members' physical, emotional, behavioral and spiritual health. Although it was introduced in the United States 40 years ago, 75% of people still do not know what palliative care is. Yet a body of scientific research demonstrates that people live longer and happier lives when they receive palliative care, with some recipients recovering from their illness.

"As a physician, I've been in so many situations where I've tried to recommend palliative care to a patient who could benefit from the resources and they turned me down," said Anthony Back, M.D., principal investigator of Message Lab and professor at the University of Washington Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence. "In creating this toolkit, I've learned how deep public misunderstanding is about palliative care. To create a real shift in how people perceive it, we need to change how we message it. What I do as a palliative care physician is help people with a serious illness feel better and cope better as they go on living their lives."

"We have seen tremendous impact of palliative care through our work with the Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program," said Peggy Maguire, president of Cambia Health Foundation. "It enhances the quality of life for people with serious illness and their loved ones. That's why we're so excited to support the development and launch of this evidence-based messaging toolkit to reduce confusion about palliative care in the hope of increasing access for patients and families who could benefit from it."

"Palliative care helps people live well with serious illness, but misperceptions about what it is and who it is for prevent too many older adults from receiving it," said Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation. "This messaging toolkit, developed with leading organizations and experts, will help health care professionals convey the profound benefits of age-friendly palliative care to the public."

Leading organizations participated in the project, lending their support and expertise to inform the research and final messaging, including: Ariadne LabsCenter to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC)Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (CTAC)Respecting ChoicesThe Conversation ProjectNational POLSTThe Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine (AMDA)VitalTalk, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), the National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care (NCHPC) and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

Join us for a webinar on Thursday, January 19 at 12:00pm PST/3:00pm EST to learn more about the Serious Illness Messaging Toolkit and see it in action. Register here:

About Message Lab

Funded by Cambia Health Foundation and The John A. Hartford Foundation, this three-year project brought the above leading organizations together to develop messaging principles for aspects of serious illness care: advance care planning, palliative care, and hospice. The project involved a scoping review of the literature, convened a stakeholder design process to develop the principles, tested the principles in focus groups before and during the COVID pandemic, and collaborated with a couple of national research projects. In addition, almost everything in the toolkit has been road-tested by the Message Lab organizational partners.

About Cambia Health Foundation 

Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions. Founded in 2007, the foundation has funded over $110 million in grants to advance patient- and family-centered care for all. Cambia Health Foundation strategically invests in philanthropy to change the way people experience health care from birth to natural completion of life.  Learn more at

About The John A. Hartford Foundation  

The John A. Hartford Foundation, based in New York City, is a private, nonpartisan, national philanthropy dedicated to improving the care of older adults. The leader in the field of aging and health, the Foundation has three areas of emphasis: creating age-friendly health systems, supporting family caregivers, and improving serious illness and end-of-life care. For more information, visit and follow @johnahartford.