What is Health Literacy?
Health literacy has a significant impact on our daily lives. It affects nearly every aspect of our ability to understand and process information regarding health, from deciding how much cough syrup to give your child to what type of health plan we should choose; from following the instructions for preparing for a medical procedure to making your way to the hospital and navigating your way once you're there. Those with limited literacy skills are at a tremendous disadvantage. Here's a definition of Health Literacy from Healthy People 2010: "The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions" (Ratzan and Parker, 2000). Health literacy, therefore, can be seen as the ability of an individual to understand information given to them by healthcare providers, educational materials accompanying over-the-counter medications, or prescription bottle labels, and the ability to process this information to care for themselves, those under their care, and to access the healthcare system in an appropriate and responsible manner.
Results from the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey showed that nearly 90 million American adults, or nearly one of every two adults, could not function above the lowest 2 levels of literacy. LIttle improvements were seen in the 2003 survey. Though there are many reasons for these low scores - inability to speak and read English, incomplete education, learning disabilities, advanced age - the fact remains that those in this category are ill-prepared to successfully function in our society.
Recognizing this problem, the Institute for Healthcare Advancement has joined the fight against low health literacy with a number of initiatives:
Health Literacy Rewrite/Redesign Service
Experts recommend that printed patient education materials be written at no higher than a 6th grade reading level, or lower if possible. Research has shown that 36% of American adults have Below Basic or Basic health literacy skills, and about half cannot read above a 5th grade level. Unfortunately, most patient education materials are written at a 9th to 12th grade reading level, or higher. This fee-based service provides you with an initial complimentary evaluation of one of your patient education pieces. You'll find out the grade level at which it's written, and we'll provide you with a letter showing how we can improve the readability and design of your materials according to industry best practices.
What To Do For Health book series
The 7 books in the "What To Do For Health" series were written with one goal in mind: to provide basic, necessary healthcare information in an easy-to-read, easy-to-use format. Each book is well organized, with accompanying illustrations, and information presented with 4 basic questions: What is it? What do I see? What can I do? and, When do I need to call the nurse or doctor? All titles are available in English or Spanish; the Senior book is also available in Vietnamese, and the Sick Child book is also available in Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.
Annual Health Literacy Conference
The Institute for Healthcare Advancement produces an annual Health Literacy Conference, which focuses on operational solutions to low health literacy. The 12th Annual Conference, "Operational Solutions to Low Health Literacy," is scheduled for May 8-10, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, Calif. This conference will bring together leaders in health literacy from organizations that have put together programs and solutions to low health literacy. They will share information on the process by which those solutions were achieved, roadblocks encountered and solved, and provide tips on how you can implement a program within your organization. Provides a great opportunity to network with your colleagues. Continuing education credits for IHA Health Literacy Conferences are available. Check back closer to the conference for specifics on this year's conference.
HELP (Health Education Literacy Program): Teaching Reading and Health Together
The Institute for Healthcare Advancement, under a grant from the State of Louisiana, has developed a comprehensive, multi-level curriculum unlike anything currently available. This curriculum, available for free, is a complete resource for teaching basic reading skills using the book, What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick, as a text.
For more information on any of these programs, follow the links above each one or contact us at (800) 434-4633 or by e-mail at email@example.com.