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Go online to find literacy resources
Searching for information on health literacy can be a time-consuming task. Yet information is required to support the need for initiatives, create clear and concise documents, or assess the status of an organization in regards to health literacy.
Following are lists of online resources broken into five categories for quick reference. This resource list was compiled by Sandra Cornett, RN, PhD, a former editorial board member for Patient Education Management and current director of AHEC Clear Health Communication at the Program Office of Outreach & Engagement, College of Medicine at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Most of these resources are free; if a cost is associated with the item, it is provided.
General resources for health literacy advocates:
American Medical Association Health Literacy Program.
Tools on this AMA web site include a health literacy kit for clinicians; videos with patient stories; and links to health literacy news, conferences, state programs, and other resources. Web: www.ama-assn.org. Under "Physician Resources," select "Patient Education Materials," then "AMA's Health Literacy Resources and Programs."
Harvard School of Public Health Web site for Health Literacy Studies.
Led by Rima Rudd, MSPH, ScD, the program provides research findings, policy report and initiatives, and a wide range of resources to support plain language writing. Web: www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy.
Health Literacy Consulting.
A private-sector resource run by health literacy expert Helen Osborne that is rich in podcasts and links to helpful tools and information. Web: www.healthliteracy.com.
Health Literacy Special Collection.
A clearinghouse of information related to teaching and learning health literacy skills, including multi-lingual resources, health literacy coalitions, and funding sources. Web: www.healthliteracy.worlded.org/index.htm.
Health Literacy Universal Precautions.
A toolkit released by the Rockville, MD, based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) offers primary care practices a way to assess their services for health literacy considerations, raise awareness of the entire staff, and work on specific areas. Web: www.ahrq.gov/qual/literacy.
Health Plan Organizational Assessment of Health Literacy Activities.
This assessment tool reviews what your organization is doing to enhance health literacy and provides insight into areas on which you can focus. It is offered by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. Web: www.ahip.org/content/default.aspx?docid=29467.
National Assessment of Adult Literacy 2003: The Health Literacy of America's Adults.
This is the first large scale assessment of health literacy in the United States. Web: http://nces.ed.gov/naal/health.asp.
The Joint Commission, "What did the Doctor Say?": Improving Health Literacy to Protect Patient Safety.
A white paper describes interventions to improve patients' ability to understand complex medical information, plus offers recommendations to mitigate the risks to patients with low health literacy and/or low English proficiency created by The Joint Commission. Web: www.jointcommission.org/What_Did_the_Doctor_Say.
Online Training Resources:
Health Literacy Online Training Resources.
A selection of interactive courses, webinars, and training videos on health literacy offered by Health Literacy Kentucky, a partnership of 35 organizations. Most of the resources are available at no charge, and those that do have a fee are indicated. Web: healthliteracykentucky.org. Select "Resources," and then select "Health literacy online training resources."
The Ohio State University Health Literacy Distance Education Program.
There are eight interactive modules on health literacy topics, including a core module, effective and clear health communication, effects of aging on health literacy, verbal and written communication with those from other cultures, writing easy-to-read health materials, readability formulas, audience research and field testing, and meeting the challenges for low health literacy in an organization. Continuing education credits are provided for several healthcare disciplines. The cost for these online classes is a $20 registration fee and $15 per module. Web: healthliteracy.osu.edu.
Tips for developing and implementing a plain language initiative:
AHIP 2009 Health Literacy Webinar Series.
A three-part series on health literacy created by America's Health Insurance Plans. Part 1 is "Health Literacy Overview and Steps for Implement Your Own Program." Part 2 is "Starting Up and Advancing Your Company's Health Literacy Program." Part 3 is "Health Literacy Campaigns." Web: www.ahip.org/healthliteracy.
Health Literacy: A Toolkit for Communicators.
Developed by the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Health Literacy Task Force, this toolkit covers four areas: steps for initiating or advancing a health literacy program, assessment tools and resources, training programs and concepts, and technology resources and strategies. Web: www.ahip.org/healthliteracy/toolkit.
Toolkit for Starting Plain Language in Your Organization.
This is a 10-step approach to creating a plain language initiative offered by The Center for Plain Language. Web: centerforplainlanguage.org/toolkit.
Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers.
From the National Cancer Institute, this guide outlines a process for developing publications for people with limited literacy. It features proven principles and a discussion of the real-life challenges faced when writing for audiences with limited literacy, such as the constraints of time, budget, organizational pressures, and the government publications process. Web: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cancerlibrary/clear-and-simple.
How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials.
These are tips from Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, which develops lay-oriented health information. Web: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/etr.html.
Improving Readability by Design.
From healthcommunications.org, the guide provides tips on seven design elements to improve the readability of patient education materials. Web: www.healthcommunications.org/improving-readability-by-design.php.
Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Improve the Usability of Health Information.
From the Department of Health and Human Services, the "Quick Guide" includes a wide range of health literacy resources, including a summary of best practices in health communication that can help improve health literacy. Web: www.health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/healthinfo.htm.
Simply Put: A Guide for Creating Easy-to-Understand Materials.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this guide illustrates how to turn complicated scientific and technical information into communication materials your audiences can relate to and understand. It describes practical ways to organize information and use language and visuals. Web: www.cdc.gov/healthmarketing/pdf/Simply_Put_082010.pdf.
Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective.
From the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Baltimore, MD, this 11-part toolkit provides a detailed and comprehensive set of resources to help you make written material in printed formats easier for people to read, understand, and use. Web: www.cms.gov/WrittenMaterialsToolkit.
Tools to assess readability of print materials:
Software produced by the Micro Power & Light Co. produces a range or readability scores and identifies words that most readers find difficult. Their web site includes helpful information on how to calculate readability using several formulas, including the Fry Graph and the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook). A free e-book on how to use readability formulas is also provided. The software for Windows is $119.95 for individual copy or $839.65 for master copy (to use on multiple computers). Shipping is $8 for standard delivery. Web: www.readabilityformulas.com/readability-plus.php.