Long before we say happy Halloween, we want to celebrate Health Literacy Month. The Institute for Healthcare Advancements describes October as “a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information.” No time like the present!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that, “Even people who read well and are comfortable using numbers can face health literacy issues when,
- They aren’t familiar with medical terms or how their bodies work.
- They have to interpret statistics and evaluate risks and benefits that affect their health and safety.
- They are diagnosed with a serious illness and are scared and confused.
- They have health conditions that require complicated self-care.
- They are voting on an issue affecting the community’s health and relying on unfamiliar technical information.”
Making health information easier to understand and accessible to the people who need it, is an important step in becoming a healthier community. It’s a step the Long Island Health Collaborative is committed to, as we work to address disparities in healthcare.
What you can do
When a doctor talks to you about a plan for your health, are you getting the information you need? If you’re a healthcare provider, are you making sure you’re on your patient’s level when you communicate with them? There are tons of resources available to you, whatever your needs are.
Ask Me 3 – The gold standard for a patient’s job in improving health literacy, from the Partnership for Clear Health Communication. Ask Me 3 are three simple but important questions you should ask your provider every time you see them,
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
Being a part of the conversation when your health is involved is critical to the kind of care you receive. Be active when it comes to your well-being! Ask the right questions. For more resources related to Ask Me 3, visit www.npsf.org/askme3. You can also follow the conversation around health literacy on Twitter with the #HealthLiteracy and #HealthLiteracyMonth tags.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement also has suggestions on what someone providing care can do to make the conversation with their patient easy and simple.
When talking with a patient, follow these guidelines:
- Slow down
- Limit, but repeat, information at every visit
- Avoid medical jargon
- Use illustrations to explain important concepts
- Use easy-to-read written materials
- Make visits interactive
- Use “teach-back” to gauge comprehension.
The way a provider communicates with the people they’re helping can have a huge impact on how well a patient understands the information they’re given. Whether it’s a conversation in an exam room with a nurse, or papers given to a patient to read when they get home, it’s important for providers to make sure patients are getting the best possible care in a way they understand. You can learn about these methods and more tools for health literate care at www.npsf.org/healthliteracy.
What we’re doing
Did you know that the LIHC has organized a training program that focuses on health literacy?
That’s right! Together with an expert from Hofstra University, we created the Cultural Competency/Health Literacy Training program. This curriculum is available to Long Island organizations, to help their Long Island staff and their Long Island patients communicate better. The mission of this program is to advance cultural and linguistic competence, promote effective communication to eliminate health disparities, and enhance patient outcomes.
Many members of the Long Island Health Collaborative have used this Cultural Competency/Health Literacy program and are still holding trainings and information sessions. Two organizations, the Nassau Queens Performing Provider System and the Suffolk Care Collaborative are hugely responsible for making this program a success in the field of community health.
Along with the curriculum itself, we’ve compiled a list of resources designed to help the people who are leading trainings. Sometimes when working with specific groups, a trainer needs more information about a specific audience or subset of the community. So we created a Trainer’s Toolbox, to help trainers answers questions during trainings, tailor trainings to these specific audiences, as well as improve facilitation skills.
Want to be a part of the training? Think it could benefit your organization? Click here for more info, or reach out to us at LIHC@nshc.org to talk about how Cultural Competency and Health Literacy training can benefit your organization.