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October is Health Literacy Month!

Posted by on October 18th, 2018 Posted in: Advocacy, Consumer Health, Outreach

Celebrated annually in October, Health Literacy Month is a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information. This annual, worldwide, awareness-raising event has been going on since 1999. The theme for Health Literacy Month is Be a Health Literacy Hero. It’s about taking action and finding ways to improve health communication. Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams, or organizations who not only identify health literacy problems but also act to solve them. Health literacy refers to how well a person can get the health information and services that they need, and how well they understand them. It is also about using them to make good health decisions. More than 90 million adults in the United States have low health literacy. It affects their ability to make health decisions, and can harm their health. They may have trouble managing chronic diseases, and leading a healthy lifestyle. They may go to the hospital more often, and have poorer health overall. Find out how your library can celebrate Health Literacy Month!

Recipients of the 34th Guam Legislatures resolution as Guam’s Health Literacy Advocates

Recipients of the 34th Guam Legislatures resolution as Guam’s Health Literacy Advocates: (from left to right) Cherie Taisacan (USNH), Luis Martinez (USNH), Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Dr. Phillip Tutnauer (GRMC), Renee Veksler (GMHA), Johnny Sablan (Department of Chamorro Affairs, Guam Public Libraries), Melliza Young (GRMC), Erica Taijeron (GRMC), Janice Baldonado (GRMC), and Kathleen Ho (GRMC)

Health literacy advocates conduct awareness campaigns through promoting use of culturally-sensitive and reader-centered health information materials, as well as by encouraging healthcare professionals to use plain language and effective communication skills when they discuss medical care with patients and their families. In the Pacific Southwest Region, Guam Regional Medical City (GRMC) joined with the island’s other hospitals and the Nieves M. Flores Public Library to host a special presentation celebrating Health Literacy Month on October 17 at the Nieves M. Flores Public Library.

GRMC Patient Education Team showing their legislative resolution certificate

GRMC Patient Education Team showing their legislative resolution certificate from the 34th Guam Legislature, honoring them as one of the island’s health literacy advocates: (from left to right) Erica Taijeron (patient educator), Janice Baldonado (patient educator), Kathleen Ho (Chief Nursing Officer), Melliza Young (Patient Education Manager) (not in photo: Kalyne Roberto, Patient Education Coordinator)

Senator Dennis Rodriguez presented a legislative resolution declaring October as Health Literacy Month and honoring the island’s health literacy advocates like GRMC, Guam Memorial Hospital, US Naval Hospital, and Nieves M. Flores Public Library. There was also a special guest reader from GRMC who read the story Tricky Treat to children at the public library. Tricky Treat is a children’s book on diabetes education created by the Native American Diabetes Project.

Your very own NNLM PSR celebrated Health Literacy Month at the 16th Annual Visión y Compromiso Conference. Yamila El-Khayat, Nora Franco, and Kelli Ham were pleased to exhibit and discuss how resources such as MedlinePlus, Healthfinder.gov, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) may be used to increase health literacy in the areas Visión y Compromiso serves – Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, one region in Mexico, and 12 regions in California. Each month, 4,000 Visión y Compromiso Promotores provide 120,000 Californians with health information! Promotores are “liaisons between their communities and health and social service providers.” Learn more about Promotores. And because Promotores share and understand the nuances, lived experiences, and values that make up these cultures, they create a natural bridge between them and the health-care system. Culture affects our perceptions, definitions, and interactions with society, which is an integral piece of health literacy. Supporting the expertise and skills of groups such as Promotores highlights one way libraries can help create more health-literate societies.

Nora Franco and Yamila El-Khayat at an exhibit booth with a promotora

Nora Franco and Yamila El-Khayat introducing MedlinePlus en español to a promotora at the Visión y Compromiso conference in Ontario, CA

Another fun event was the 8th Annual Día de Los Libros and Fall into Literacy Festival held in Wilmington, California, on October 13. Surprisingly, the event was nearly rained out – highly unusual for Southern California! Luckily, the skies cleared, and Nora and Kelli shared information with many members of the community about easy-to-understand health resources in English, Spanish, and other languages. Children were delighted to receive bilingual coloring booklets about healthy activities, and visitors appreciated learning about MedlinePlus and other resources that were available en español.

How is your library celebrating Health Literacy Month?

Image of the author ABOUT Alan Carr
Alan Carr is the Associate Director, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, based at UCLA.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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