Did you know October is Health Literacy Month? And while, yes, health literacy is important year-round, this is just a special time to amplify its importance and relevance!
So what do even mean by health literacy? The U.S government’s decennial Healthy People Initiative has updated its definition of health literacy to include both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy for the first time:
Healthy People 2030 defines personal health literacy and organizational health literacy as:
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.
Why It Is Critical
We know that systemic inequities lead to huge disparities in health outcomes for folks. Here in Chicago, Black Chicagoans die nearly 9 years earlier than white Chicagoans. While challenges around health literacy are not new, with COVID-19 we’ve also seen the national ripple effects of an inconsistent and unequal healthcare infrastructure amplified, reaching an extremely alarming milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in September and disproportionately impacting people of color. Misinformation and disinformation have also had a tremendously harrowing effect on the U.S. and the world as well.
For so many reasons, it’s critical that we must consider how we communicate effectively around disease and health practices and we must also consider the way that social determinants of health impact lives — and our collective and individual health — as well. Much mission-driven work ultimately affects health in some way. How can we focus on our health if we have unsafe or unstable housing? What about if we don’t have consistent access to healthcare? What if we don’t have the emotional supports in place to thrive? All of these aspects of life have an important thing in common: they affect our health and our ability to not only survive but thrive.
Resources to Check Out
Here are just a few resources on Health Literacy to check out:
If you haven’t read it, definitely review the discussion paper, 10 Attributes of a Health Literate Health Care Organization that came out of a 2012 roundtable of health thought leaders.
Give a listen to Health Literacy expert Helen Osborne’s Health Literacy Out Loud podcast for a variety of rich and interesting conversations in the health field.
Sign up for the Institute for Health Literacy Advancement’s Health Literacy Solutions portal which has an array of resources, webinars, and a rich listserv where folks can share a variety of health-related resources.
At Clear Language Lab, our work touches on a variety of issues related to health and social determinants of health. No matter what your sector, we can help you communicate more clearly, transparently, and effectively in several ways:
Free Quarterly Plain Language Foundations workshops (check out our next one on how plain language can support trauma-informed practices)
Writing for Understanding cohort to do a deep dive into your work content
Tailored training for your org
We will be posting on social media all about health literacy month. Give us a follow so you don't miss out. And be sure to check out the health literacy section of our resources page for a wide array of additional resources
Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved [date graphic was accessed], from https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/social-determinants-health