Teaching ordinary people to become health experts and having them spread their knowledge to others can make a big impact, according to new findings from a Colorado researcher.

The effort started with collaboration between medical experts, farmers, teachers and others in 2005.

They created an eight-month program called Boot Camp Translation to give ordinary residents expertise on topics like cancer or asthma. The idea spread. And a new study finds it’s worked to help translate complex medical jargon for residents of more than 25 communities in five states.  

“The most surprising thing to me has been how readily community members can learn a topic and translate that complex language into something meaningful to them," said Dr. Jack Westfall, at CU Anschutz, who authored the study

Westfall says the process has been shown to improve cancer testing, asthma management and control of hypertension.

The study is published in the journal Health Affairs.