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!
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.
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.
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?