April 2007 MedBytes: Health Literacy

  Texas Medicine Logo(1)  


As this month's cover story reports, sometimes a patient simply does not understand what you are telling him or her. Using language that exceeds a patient's literary skills can result in complications or a bad outcome. Below is a sample of sites on the World Wide Web that can provide additional information about health literacy and its importance in your everyday practice.

American Medical Association Foundation Health Literacy Initiative
The AMA Foundation,www.amafoundation.org, has dedicated a special section under its public health menu to health literacy. In 1998, AMA became the first national medical organization to adopt a policy recognizing that limited patient literacy affects a patient's medical diagnosis and treatment. Since then, the AMA Foundation has been working to raise awareness through health literacy toolkits, patient safety tip cards, and partnerships with other health care organizations to address the problems that accompany low health literacy. Visitors to the AMA Foundation's Web site can sign up for its Health Literacy Listserv to begin receiving messages about health literacy conferences, new resources, and requests for proposals. The foundation has also published its own health literacy newsletter, Health Literacy Update , which is distributed at no charge to members of the Health Literacy Listserv. To join the Health Literacy Listserv, send an e-mail to healthliteracy@ama-assn.org.

Center for Health Care Strategies
Opening its doors in 2005, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and cost effectiveness of publicly financed care for people with chronic health needs, the elderly, and racially and ethnically diverse populations. The CHCS Web site,www.chcs.org, contains a free online resource library with information about health literacy. This includes a series of nine fact sheets that define health literacy, describe its impact on health outcomes, provide strategies to prepare appropriate educational materials to assist low-literate consumers, and provide resources for additional health literacy information and publications. You can find the fact sheets by clicking on Community Based Organizations, then Health Literacy Fact Sheets under Resources.  

Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative
With a special section for physicians and providers, Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative,
www.pfizerhealthliteracy.com, discusses signs of low health literacy and risk assessment and screening. There also is a prevalence calculator, which serves as an online tool to provide a rough estimate of a practice's patients who experience difficulty understanding medical information and instructions. Site visitors can access the Newest Vital Sign, a bilingual (English and Spanish) screening tool that identifies patients at risk for low health literacy. Tips for providers can also be found, as well as additional materials and research.  

October:  Health Literacy Month
Health Literacy Month, celebrated each October, is a time when health literacy advocates around the world promote the importance of understandable health information. Started by Helen Osborne in 1999, this month is a way for health literacy advocates to speak together and let the world know why health literacy matters. Visitors to www.healthliteracy.com/hl_month.asp can sign up for a free newsletter with information about the site's latest articles and tips as well as related health literacy news. Guidance about how to organize your own Health Literacy Month event and information on upcoming workshops are also included.

U.S.Census Bureau
The Census Bureau is the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy. The bureau honors privacy, protects confidentiality, shares its expertise globally, and conducts its work openly. Its online site,  www.census.gov, has tools to locate census information, including American FactFinder, which allows site visitors to locate specific data about their community. Also included is information about the bureau's Population Estimates Program, which publishes population numbers between each census and a list of online reports and publications.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to  Texas  physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email Larry BeSaw . Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the  Texas  Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.