Limited health literacy is a health hazard
Literacy skills are the strongest predictor of an individual's health status - more than age, income, education level, employment status or racial or ethnic group. An estimated 36 percent of Americans have poor health literacy skills and cannot use a graph to determine a healthy weight range, or read labels to identify substances that interact with over-the-counter medications. Multiple state and national studies link higher health care costs to low literacy skills. Between $106 and $238 billion is lost each year on health care costs due to a problem with communication methods and the ability of adults to obtain, process and understand health information. Providers in Wisconsin lose $3.4 billion annually due to health literacy problems. In Dane County alone, lack of health literacy costs the health care system more than $433 million.
Literacy Network leads the way in Health Literacy in Dane County
Literacy Network's English for Health program was named a "promising practice" by the State of Wisconsin to improve minority health outcomes in 2010. The program also received the first Outstanding Achievement in Health Literacy from Wisconsin Literacy in 2010.
Literacy Network has partnered with St Mary's Hospital, GHC Hatchery Hill Clinic, Wingra Family Medical Center, Dean East Clinic, and UW Health West Clinic to offer our English for Health classes. We thank these organizations for their partnership and for their support.
12 Week Health Literacy Class
The class provides adult English language learners in Dane County hands-on practice that will improve their English language ability, knowledge of good health practices and their ability to make and communicate good decisions regarding their health care.
Community members with low literacy practice interactions with nurses and pharmacy students in our mock clinic. This increases their comfort, confidence and ability to make good health decisions.
Students work from the text Staying Healthy, created by the Florida Literacy Coalition. Initially, students are introduced to area health care facilities, the importance of regular checkups, when and how to use emergency care and how to navigate health care facilities and read signs. Following this unit, student learn how to communicate with the doctor, name body parts, fill in basic forms, answer and ask questions and describe symptoms. The third course of study is on medicine, the importance of reading labels carefully and how a pharmacist can help. The culmination of these three sections is a mock clinic, in which students fill out basic new patient forms, have their blood pressure taken and then practice describing assigned symptoms to area doctors and nurses. Pharmacists review sample prescriptions with each student. Class concludes with a section on nutrition and good health habits. Thank you to a grant from the Willy Street Co-Cop, students put what they learn about nutrition to good use-with a tour of the co-op and a chance to purchase new healthy food with a $20 gift card.
For more information on the English for Health program or other health literacy services, please call Beth Gaytan, Health Literacy Director, at (608) 244-3911.