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Award Report: Health Literacy Curriculum: Tools and Strategies for Improving Health Communication–New York Medical College

The primary purpose of this project was to develop a curriculum for health professionals and providers with practical solutions for improving health communications in their own practice settings.  The project continues the collaboration initiated by the Public Health Information Partners Project, expands the health literacy efforts at New York Medical College and in the Hudson Valley region, and work with participants from a 2007 health literacy conference.

A cohort of trainees was planned with each trainee expected to train others, use or share applications, and participate in a moderated health literacy wiki or blog.  A total of 200 participants was targeted, including: health professionals, providers of direct patient care, community leaders and librarians working in health care settings.  Leaders included professional employees in public health departments, nurses, health/medical faculty and educators, and medical libraries from the NN/LM MAR.

The project’s four objectives were as follows:

  1. Complete a preliminary needs assessment of professionals in the Hudson Valley region.
  2. Implement a “train the trainer” model for participating health professionals.
  3. Create a regional health literacy wiki or blog to foster effective communications and networking among health professionals with an interest in health literacy.
  4. Evaluate the use of specific strategies and tools in clinical or professional practice.

The needs assessment confirmed that there was a high level of interest in health literacy programming, and that a focus on practical strategies was desired.  Subsequent research informed the development of a training curriculum. By April 30, 2011,  three training events were scheduled using reputed health communication and health literacy experts.  The program descriptions, handouts, and photos are available here.  A total of 276 participants attended one or more events.

The health literacy wiki was created next.  By June 15, 2011, a total of 29 users were registered, with 296 users of the toolkit.

Evaluation of the project continues, but results show that we have successfully created a cohort of health professionals interested in honing their communication skills with patients/consumers and have provided them with the practical tools and strategies that they value and wish to continue to enhance.

Dianna Cunningham
New York Medical College Health Sciences Library

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