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Blogadillo August 6th, 2020
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ICYMI Webinar Recap: Opening Doors to Health Literacy at Your Library

Posted by on April 14th, 2020

Over the next several weeks, we will be recapping some of the exceptional webinars that the NNLM/SCR hosted over the course of 2019. If you would like to access an archived version of this webinar as well as many others we have hosted, please click here.

In case you missed it, our November 13, 2020 SCR CONNECTions webinar was presented by Leslie Gelders, Literacy Coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. She specializes in collaborating with library- and community-based literacy programs, state agencies, and other organizations to promote literacy throughout Oklahoma.

Leslie begins this conversation by defining health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions”. She explains that poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of someone’s health than their age, socioeconomic status, and a number of other commonly-named factors affecting health. Poor health literacy can become a challenge whenever a consumer wants to understand medical instructions or benefits, read prescription bottles, or even determine where to go inside a medical facility by attempting to follow signage.

Health literacy has challenged us all at one point or another. These issues do not exist only for people with low general literacy or non-native speakers; everyone has had an experience with struggling to understand medical terminology or a particular diagnosis, or even when trying to use now-pervasive online patient portals. A patient may find it difficult to admit they don’t understand something or might not feel comfortable enough to ask questions. This is precisely why promoting health literacy is so important; it affects everyone.

Leslie’s state of Oklahoma shares the same health problems that are so common in populations from all five states in the South Central Region; diabetes, smoking and obesity are especially prevalent. She shares Oklahoma health ranking information obtained from AmericasHealthRankings.org and encourages us to look up statistics for our own states.



So, what does all this have to do with libraries? According to a 2015 Pew research study, 73% of people who visited public libraries in America were seeking answers to questions about their health. Libraries are trusted, approachable, community-centered organizations where many people are already “plugged in”. Best of all, libraries have librarians, the information experts needed by so many people seeking help with locating reputable health information. What better place to actively promote health literacy? Leslie shares a number of possible library health literacy offerings, some requiring physical space and others living entirely online. These programs promote a broad range of topics like senior health, cooking for wellness, disease prevention, and children’s health. 

Leslie finished her talk by citing community partnerships as being both a major driver for and a major benefit of library health literacy programming. As of November 2019, Leslie’s organizations had more than 250 partnerships established; these partners help to further familiarize librarians and patrons with their communities and further establish libraries as community anchors. NNLM SCR is thrilled to be one such partner! 

This webinar is available to watch on YouTube, and Leslie’s contact information is listed below.

Leslie Gelders


(405) 522-3242

What is your library doing to promote health literacy? How can you reach out to public libraries to help build health literacy programming, both now and a year from now? It’s never too early or too late to plan something that encourages health and wellness. Even now, as we are all at home and interacting remotely with our libraries via social media or streaming services, we are learning that the innovative nature of librarians knows no bounds. We at NNLM SCR have loved watching you on Twitter and Facebook and learning how you are putting health literacy skills into action while extending the benefits of this vital skill to others. Keep up the great work; your communities need you!

Please look out for blog posts in the coming weeks which will recap more NNLM/SCR webinars.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Image of the author ABOUT E. Bailey Sterling
E. Bailey Sterling is a Digital Communications Specialist with the NNLM SCR and presently a graduate student pursuing an MS in Information Science specializing in Health Informatics from the University of North Texas (GMG!). She's an analog gamer, writer, and lifelong learner living in DFW. If you have anything you'd like to see featured on the NNLM SCR blog or social channels, please email Bailey.Sterling@unthsc.edu. We would love to hear more about what's happening at your library!

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