10 Attributes of an Organization that supports Health Literacy

Frempong_smJanet Ohene-Frempong in 2014 was invited to work with the Oregon Health Authority on their initiative, Developing Equity Leadership through Training and Action: DELTA. According to Janet, Oregon is a leader in coordinated care.

Goals of the Initiative were:

  1. Reduce healthcare costs and improve equity
  2. Improve the effectiveness of communication as one of many ways to reach those goals.

DELTA has a leadership program for 25 members per year from many fields; e.g., health, education , social service, government.

Part of the DELTA program is to institutionalize best practices in organizations.

  • Oregon is including health literacy issues in the development of equity leadership as well as in their attempt to reduce the cost of providing health care to the most vulnerable.
  • Marginal literacy and effective communication issues impact not only health, but education, social services, law enforcement and even  art and entertainment. Supporting effective communication is supporting those who provide information, service and /or care across literacy levels, languages, cultures, etc.
  • Institutionalizing best practices includes expanding the use of IOM’s 10 Attributes of a Health literate organization for use outside the healthcare industry to indirectly improve health. (10 Attributes is 2012 document. It was a seminal document. We need institutional support, and this document codifies it.)

“A Health Literate organization is health-literacy supportive,” says Janet.

Janet drafted a prescriptive checklist for the DELTA program based on the 10 attributes.

  1. Educational, legal/law enforcement, and social service systems affect health and need to be part of the health literacy solution. Literature in these fields supports a connection between health literacy and issues of importance to these sectors.
  2. If health, educational, legal/law enforcement and social service systems can adopt most of the 10 attributes, they may be able to make a substantial contribution to improve population health.
  3. You must identify barriers that stand in the way: Time and money are the most often cited.
  4. There are many resources on the link between health communication and health equity. (See the citations in Janet’s talk handout.)
  5. The communication skills required to support health, as well as health literacy, apply to those in other fields as well. It takes a community to move people towards health. We can extract principles of health communication and extend them to the entire community.