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
Based in Anchorage and partnered with Providence Alaska Medical Center and The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative (TAHLC) are Peer Leader Navigators, or PLNs, that 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:
- Call 907-290-3639
- Email [email protected]
- Fill out this form: muni.org/CPLN
Visit Alaska Literacy Program for more information and events.
Measuring health literacy for healthcare providers is through the ability to which providers effectively communicate information regarding healthcare and services to enable patients to make their own quality health-related decisions.
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 using both Plain Language and Teach Back.
Plain Language is writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows others best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience. Resources are listed below.
Teach Back is 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.
Plain Language Resources:
- Test for adult health literacy levels Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine–Short Form
- Patient education materials should be written at or below a 5th grade reading level
- CDC Plain Language Guide
Teach Back Resources:
- The 5Ts for Teach Back: An Operational Definition for Teach-Back Training
- Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership-Teach Back Training (includes implementation guide, ppt, video)
- AHRQ Teach Back Intervention Materials
- Always Use Teach Back– toolkit, learning modules, other materials
As healthcare professionals, there are also other ways to learn more about communicating effectively and how to ensure engaging conversation with patients.
- AHRQ Patient Engagement and Education – includes resources for assessing health literacy levels with patients and ways to further engage patients and families of patients.
- Information on CAHPS Surveys assessing provider-patient communication
- Health Literacy Measurement Tools, how to measure the health literacy of your patient
- Indian Health Service: Welcome to Healthcare Communications, resources linking to Healthy People 2020 and steps for healthcare providers to communicate with patients
Health literacy for healthcare systems is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
Many government agencies and academic, for-profit and non-profit organizations have health literacy programs, participate in committees, and contribute to plans and reports. Listed below is more information about what other agencies are doing for health literacy.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its agencies contribute to the science and practice of health literacy improvement. Here are some examples for actionable plans you can take to improve health literacy at your organization.
National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, published by health.gov
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Health Literacy, includes health literacy improvement tools and trainings
Health Resources and Services Administration: Health Literacy, why should we promote health literacy?
National Institutes of Health: Clear Communication: A NIH Health Literacy Initiative, resources for incorporating plain language approaches for healthcare facilities
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, HHS: Health Literacy Improvement, features initiatives to use at facilities such as health literacy workgroups
Office of Minority Health Cultural and Linguistic Competency, resources for training programs for cultural and linguistic competency for healthcare providers and organizations
Other Health Literacy Collaboratives
- The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative, see here for local Alaska initiatives and trainings
- Alaska Literacy Program, collaborates often with The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center for Health Literacy, great resources for plain language
- Colorado Health Literacy Coalition
- CDC-Health Literacy Activities by State, to find more resources for your home state!
- The Health Literacy Solutions Center
- Make an account to sign up for the Health Literacy Discussion Email Listserv!
Health Literacy Toolkits
- Health Literacy Booklet-Health Literacy Kentucky, tips for how to communicate with your patients
- Health Communication Checklist-Pennsylvania Health Literacy Coalition-Plain language guide
- National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, details with background and action items for improving health literacy on a national level
- Health Literacy Toolkit-The Rhode Island Health Literacy Project, example for creating a toolkit to address challenges in communication considering language and cultural barriers
- Minnesota Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, another great example for how to make a health literacy toolkit for your state
Past and Future Webinars
- Dr. Rima Rudd with the CDC discusses the importance of personal health literacy, health-literate clinicians, and health-literate organizations
- AHRQ Teach-Back Guide
- Florida Rural Health Association Project ECHO: Health Literacy April 15th-June 24th 2021
- IHA Health Literacy Conference
- 2021’s annual conference will be held May 25-27
- Access to past year’s conferences also available on this page
- CDC Health Literacy Page
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Literacy Page
- National Library of Medicine Health Literacy Page
- National Institute of Health Health Literacy Page
- Health Literacy Out Loud podcast with Janet Ohene-Frempong and Helen Osbourne
- CDC Health Literacy Blog
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Facebook Page
- Plain Language Friday infographics and other media tools