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Region 5 Blog December 5th, 2022
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Consumer Health Minute: Participate in Health Literacy Month!

Posted by on October 6th, 2021 Posted in: Consumer Health, Health Literacy, Health Observances, News from NNLM
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Health Literacy Month began with Helen Osbourne, health literacy consultant, in 1999 to bring awareness of the need to create and provide health information that is understandable by patients and the general public.

Healthy People 2030 updated their definition of health literacy to include both personal and organizational health literacy:

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

This new definitions:

  • Emphasize people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it
  • Focus on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones
  • Incorporate a public health perspective
  • Acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy

word cloud with the words Health Literacy centered and other words around it such as Patrons, Library, Outreach and more

What can you and your organization or library do to address health literacy?

Highlight MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine’s consumer health information resource, in your library’s newsletters and programs, post links to specific health information on social media, and use MedlinePlus in your reference services. It’s free and includes information from a variety of authoritative sources.

Organize a program highlighting health and wellness and include health information resources such as MedlinePlus, the Medical Library Association’s resources for patients and the public, and additional resources included in the NNLM guide for public libraries. Attendees will appreciate these resources to have handy after the program.

Take classes focusing on consumer health and earn the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) from the Medical Library Association. NNLM classes are free and many are eligible towards CHIS. Currently NNLM will take care of the CHIS application fee for library staff and those involved in health outreach. Taking classes will help keep you current and aware of consumer health topics and resources and increase confidence in providing consumer health information services.

You and your community members may sign up to receive free consumer health information:

Highlight and listen to Helen Osborne’s podcast, Health Literacy Out Loud with episodes pertaining to the public, organizations, and health professionals

Libraries Transform Health Literacy Toolkit, is an easy way to highlight the role of libraries in providing quality health information to help increase their community’s health literacy. Sign up for a free account and you’ll have access to downloadable posters, bookmarks, table tents and more to print and post around the library in October and all year long.

Reading fictional or real-life stories is a great way to discuss health issues and concerns from various perspectives. Host a book discussion with books that include a health topic such as:

Check out additional reads with the NNLM Reading Club.

And to observe both Health Literacy Month and National Medical Librarians Month, NNLM is holding a spine poetry contest!

  • Gather your books (at least 3)
  • Stack them up!
  • Arrange the titles to create a health related poem
  • Take a photo and share it with us!

Individuals can submit up to three time throughout October. Send us your entry on Twitter by tagging @nnlmregion5 and #BookSpinePoetry or e-mail nnlm@uw.edu

10 winners will be selected following National Medical Librarians Month and Health Literacy Month (both observed in the month of October). All participants will be entered into a lottery to receive a free copy of each of the books selected from the NNLM Reading Club – a total of 15 books to add to your collection and share with your users! Learn more about it on a previous blog post.

Each week, during the month of October, this NNLM Region 5 blog will include special posts focusing on health literacy. Stay tuned!

Image of the author ABOUT Carolyn Martin
Carolyn Martin is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the NNLM Region 5. She works with various libraries and community organizations to increase health literacy in their communities.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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