Health literacy is the gap between how health messages are communicated and what patients can understand to make good health decisions. Only 12% of Americans have a proficient level of health literacy; patients with lower health literacy face many health care-related challenges, including:
- Navigating the healthcare system or locating providers or services
- Filling out medical forms or accessing digital forms
- Poor chronic disease management and self-care
- Low adherence to medication and discharge instructions
- Delayed diagnoses, decreased use of preventive services, poor health status, unnecessary emergency department visits, and greater mortality risk
According to the American Medical Association, poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level, and race1.
Does my clinic have a role in improving health literacy for our clients?
Yes. Your clinic can make things easier for patients by improving communication, helping patients find their way around, and supporting patients to become more engaged in managing their health.
- Ensure providers use communication tools such as the teach-back method to make sure patients confirm their understanding of their diagnosis, medications, and discharge instructions
- Use plain language and health literacy guidelines when creating print and digital materials
- Use clear communication guidelines to help patients navigate your clinic.
How can the Fulton County Board of Health help?
We are excited to provide this FREE health literacy initiative to you. OHLI staff will guide your clinic through an assessment, partner with your clinic staff to create a Health Literacy Improvement Plan, and support implementation of the plan.
- The assessment helps your clinic evaluate clinic policies and practices, signage and navigation, cultural responsiveness and language access, and readability of patient-facing communications.
- The Health Literacy Improvement Plan uses the assessment findings to help your organization prioritize areas for improvement. How much you tackle in your plan is up to you; OHLI staff can help customize your plan.
- OHLI staff can help with implementation of your customized plan by assisting with drafting policies and practices, selecting improved wayfinding signage, and assessing and developing health literate patient education materials.
What resources are needed to implement this initiative?
Each clinic location will need to be able to devote the following resources to this initiative:
- A Health Literacy Champion from your organization who supports the organization’s OHLI efforts with the board, staff, and patients.
- Staff time to participate in online and in-person trainings on Teach Back, Plain Language, or other trainings according to your customized OHLI plan.
- Staff time to complete the assessment and implement the plan including face-to-face and internet-based trainings.
- Provide OHLI staff the level of access required to support the OHLI plan.
How does my Clinic become a part of this Initiative?
OHLI invites Fulton County’s DBHDD clinics, Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) clinics, and Community-Based Primary Care Clinics and federally qualified health centers in Fulton County to join this free initiative. For multi-site clinics, each clinic location will be assessed independently and a site specific customized OHLI Improvement Plan drafted.
The Fulton County Board of Health Organizational Health Literacy Initiative is funded through the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Disabilities through grant #MP-CPI-21-006 from the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Ad Hoc Committee on Health Literacy for the Council on Scientific Affairs, Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA])