HEALTH
LITERACY

ASHNHA is dedicated to increasing access to health literacy resources in the state of Alaska. In the US, only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy levels, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Low health literacy is linked to higher risk of death and more emergency room visits and hospitalizations for patients. Also, low health literacy is a major source of economic inefficiency in the U.S. healthcare system. It is estimated that the cost of low health literacy to the U.S. economy is between $106 billion to $238 billion annually.

Patients & Families

On an individual level, health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. 

In Alaska, 58% of U.S. adults read below a 6th grade level. Anchorage is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the U.S. with a large immigrant and refugee population and almost 100 languages spoken by children in the public school system.

Basic literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context, and emotional responses can all affect the way people receive and process information.

Through a partnership with Providence Alaska Medical Center and The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative (TAHLC), Peer Leader Navigators (PLNs) help community members understand and connect with resources regarding healthcare information.  PLNs not only provide information and resources to the community in a way that is understandable and useable, but they also inform healthcare providers about the best ways to reach people in the community and provide services that are culturally relevant. 
 

To access the help and guidance of PLNs in your community:

 

Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare providers are a community’s gateway to many health services. Providers are also trusted sources of information for many people. The resources on this page can help healthcare providers recognize and respond to patients’ information and communication needs. The resources may also help other individuals and organizations identify common interests and opportunities to work with healthcare providers and health services organizations. 

Some key strategies that can be used by healthcare providers include:

Plain Language - writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows others best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience. 

Teach Back - a technique for healthcare providers to ensure that they have explained medical information clearly so that patients and their families understand what is communicated to them. Resources also included below. 

 

Organizations

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multi-sector effort to improve health literacy.

 

The Action Plan is based on 2 core principles:

  • All people have the right to health information that helps them make informed decisions

  • Health services should be delivered in ways that are easy to understand and that improve health, longevity, and quality of life

 

The Action Plan contains 7 goals that will improve health literacy and strategies for achieving them:

  1. Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable

  2. Promote changes in the health care system that improve health information, communication, informed decision-making, and access to health services

  3. Incorporate accurate, standards-based, and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in child care and education through the university level

  4. Support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community

  5. Build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies

  6. Increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy

  7. Increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions


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