Health literacy is defined as a person’s ability to find, understand and evaluate basic health information and services. Unfortunately, research indicates that most people in the U.S. have difficulty navigating through the sea of health information and advice available. Nearly 9 out of 10 adults have trouble using everyday health information they get through health care settings, media, community sources and other outlets1.
To help address this growing problem, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Greater Cleveland’s (SOCF) launched a Health Literacy Initiative in 2007 as part of a broader effort to reduce health disparities. The goal of the SOCF initiative is to improve the health literacy and capacity of individuals and providers to reduce health disparities. This is being done in three ways:
- Improve the health literacy of Greater Cleveland residents in order to encourage better health decisions and healthy behaviors;
- Promote health literacy education and training for health professionals; and
- Enhance communication between consumers and care providers.
About the Evaluation
The Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods/Center for Health Promotion Research partnered in 2009 with the Sisters of Charity Foundation (SOCF) to begin to develop and refine an evaluation framework for the initiative. These early steps focused on reviewing the logic models of the original 14 grantees, identifying common measures to be collected across the grantees, developing standardized evaluation tools and protocols, and providing evaluation trainings to build capacity among the grantees. Eight local organizations received imlpmentation grants in July 2009, and the PRCHN has worked with the SOCF and grantees to develop and implement an evaluation plan that informs the grantees and the SOCF of the successes and barriers of each of these unique projects.
The Center also continues to support the work of the SOCF through ongoing review of the growing body of literature in the area of health literacy measurement and research, providing ongoing capacity-building workshops in evaluation through SOCF Learning Circles, and development and delivery of a community-partner training in health literacy and plain language.
Participants in the Program
The Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland seeks to increase health literacy among people with diabetes by developing and delivering "diabetes survival skill" presentations to small groups and by engaging community health advocates to connect people in their peer networks to DAGC's resources. The target population for this request is people with diabetes, in particular underserved people with diabetes.
MomsFirst (Cleveland Department of Public Health) seeks to expand the initial Baby Basics pilot demonstration project to nine sites. The Cleveland Baby Basics Initiative utilizes a culturally tailored and linguistically appropriate tool that directly addresses MomsFirst's and other perinatal providers' need to educate, inform, increase understanding and empower expecting moms to use health information appropriately. The intervention targets high-risk pregnant adolescents, at-risk women and incarcerated women served by MomsFirst through community-based prenatal home visiting programs and pregnant women who receive prenatal care at a Federally Qualified Health Center (NEON) or community health center (NFP).
Urban Community School of Cleveland (UCS) in 2009 implemented a health literacy program which focuses on nutrition, fitness, wellness and positive decision-making regarding issues of personal health. UCS is helping improve healthy literacy for its students and their families by providing easy access to information and services, as well as materials and activities that are easy to understand, duplicate, and maintain. This will include supplying easy to read materials, supplying materials written in Spanish, offering family activities, and activities planned by students. The program will also provide access to various healthy lifestyle services and resouces.
The Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital Parent Network Program seeks to empower program participants to meet their own and their children's health care needs while facing the daily challenges of work-related demands and parenting responsibilities. Additionally, the program intends to implement systemic approaches for increasing health literacy awareness and for providing culturally competent patient-centered care. This will be accomplished through group education sessions facilitated by a social worker and peer coach, the implementation of "infoscripts", peer support and educating providers on health literacy. The target populations include the parents/caregivers of the patients who receive their healthcare at Rainbow Pediatric Practice Clinic, and the health care professionals who provide this care.
The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland seeks to improve patients' ability to understand and use health information (and the Clinic's ability to present this information). This will be accomplished by improving the organization's communication with patients, as well as providing tools and support for new patients to improve their ability to understand and use health information. A corps of volunteer registered nurses, trained to act as "patient advocates", provide post-appointment education and support. Additionally, for patients who have challenging health demands the nurse develops a "personal health journal" to further assist the patient with managing his/her health.
Project: LEARN seeks to expand its current health literacy program partnership (the Reading Health partnership) with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center (SVCMC). The program aims to improve the way the Hospital and its health care staff communicate with patients. Reading Health is designed to provide technical assistance consultation to the professional staff of SVCH, particularly those who have frequent patient contact: nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physician assistants, and outreach workers.
Environmental Health Watch assists low-income families in effectively managing childhood asthma using home-directed medical and environmental measures. The health literacy project of EHW focuses on children and their families who struggle with the burdens of managing this disease. Specifically, the project will engage 20 families with children who were recently hospitalized. The primary intervention is a series of home visits structured to help families address key asthma management tasks and challenges.
Steps to a Healthier Cleveland was a program of the Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) whose goal as a grantee is to serve the greater Cleveland area as a health literacy resource, educate CDPH staff, local health care providers, public health professionals, and community organizers on health literacy, and increase the production of health literate materials generated internally by the staff at CDPH. Steps provided community and staff health literacy trainings, distributed health literacy materials in Cleveland communities and added health literacy resouces to their website, among other health literacy activities.