October is Health Literacy Month
Health Literacy has been defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Healthy People 2010). Yet, millions of Americans have difficulty with reading and understanding basic health information, such as interpreting over-the-counter drug labels and reading a chart to determine a child’s immunization schedule.
Founded as a grassroots initiative in 1999 by Helen Osborne, Health Literacy Month is a time for organizations and individuals worldwide to promote the importance of understandable health information. Since its beginning, there have been hundreds of awareness-raising events held across the U.S. and around the world. In previous years, Health Literacy Month events have included workshops and conferences for professionals, community programs for the public, and classes or other educational offerings for students at all levels. This year, many Health Literacy Month events are happening online as well.
Here are a few online “events” to check out during the month:
- Online “Health Literacy Blog Party,” sponsored by Emmi Soluntions (a health communications company). Eight experts will be blogging over the course of the month. The link is: http://engagingthepatient.com/.
- Plain Talk Blog, hosted weekly by Health Literacy Missouri at: http://www.healthliteracymissouri.org/for-health-literacy-professionals/plain-talk-blog/ .
- Plain Language Medical Dictionary Widget – a tool that uses plain language definitions from common medical term – developed at the University of Michigan Taumban Health Sciences Library: http://www.lib.umich.edu/plain-language-dictionary .
- Collection of stories about why health literacy matters at the Health Literacy Month website: http://www.healthliteracymonth.org/hlmonth_stories.asp .
Finally, during this month, take the opportunity to introduce someone to all of the great health information resources located in MedlinePlus (http://www.medlineplus.gov/ )! Check out the health topics page devoted to Health Literacy. The MedlinePlus homepage now also has a direct link to Easy-to-Read health topics pages (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/all_easytoread.html) which includes How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials.