Madison, WI (12/13/2011)
Each year, $465 Million is lost in Dane County because patients don't understand directions from their health care providers. In addition to the financial impact, low health literacy causes significantly worse outcomes for patients. A local non-profit organization is working to reduce this cost and help patients better understand how to interact with the health care system. Literacy Network of Dane County offers English for Health classes in area hospitals and clinics for those with low health literacy. Literacy Network staff members presented this innovative model at the national ProLiteracy Conference in Houston this November. To improve the literacy environment of area healthcare organizations, Literacy Network has created, developed, and sustained collaborative partnerships with area health care systems. The program was named a Promising Practice to improve minority health outcomes by the State of Wisconsin, and was awarded the "Outstanding Achievement in Health Literacy" by Wisconsin Literacy in 2010.
"I now feel more confident if I have to go to a doctor's appointment," said Laura, a student in the fall class.
Mock clinics in hospital settings provide adult learners with the experience they need to improve communication and better understand their health care. "Before [the mock clinic] I was very nervous when I visited the hospital, but this clinic visit changed my thinking," said student Songhua Cui. Literacy Network recently completed three class sessions at Wingra Clinic, GHC and Dean, thanks in part to support from the Humana Foundation.
In the classes, adults learn to access and use healthcare in onsite classes taught by a Literacy Network certified teacher, with added instruction by area healthcare providers. Students make appointments, register, fill out personal information, have their blood pressure taken, and describe assigned symptoms to volunteer healthcare providers. Students are evaluated on their understanding of what providers told them.
Literacy Network staff also provide assistance to the United Way of Dane County's Safe and Healthy Aging delegation and GHC - South Central Wisconsin. They are collaborating to create plain language materials that are easier for patients and caregivers to understand.
Literacy Network is a non-profit organization of teachers, learners, tutors, volunteers and donors working together to improve adult literacy in Dane County. Their programs teach reading, writing and speaking skills to adults and families so they can achieve financial independence, good health and greater involvement in community life. All programs are free of charge.
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