Health Literacy: Twitter Thoughts and Resources

Add #healthlit chats to your Twitter chat schedule!

Yesterday, Health Literacy Missouri (@HealthLitMo)  kicked off the first of a monthly series of chats on health literacy on Twitter (#healthlit). The chats are scheduled on the 3rd of every month, so if you missed yesterday’s, don’t worry, you can participate on March 3 (2;30 Central, right now).

Healthy People 2020 and health literacy

The first chat included Linda Harris, PhD, as guest speaker. She’s the health communication and e-health team lead at the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She explained some of the health literacy-related objectives in the Healthy People 2020 initiative ( HP2020) and some measures and targets to achieve these objectives.

Some of the discussion questions raised during the chat included:

  • What are you doing to address the objectives in the Health Communication and Health Information Technology section of Healthy People 2020? What can organizations and individuals start doing right now?
  • What other objectives in Healthy People 2020 should we focus on to improve health literacy? What opportunities are there beyond the plan?
  • Healthy People 2020 offers flexibility to add new measurements of health literacy. Looking at the objectives under the Health Communication and Health IT section, how should we define success in improving health literacy?

You’ll be able to find the transcript of the chat  here (the page may take a bit of time to load) and Health Literacy Missouri will be blogging about it in detail in about a week, but I wanted to highlight some of my personal takeaways.

Health literacy’s not just for public health mavens!
There are many diverse and passionate people involved in health literacy in many different levels. You do NOT  have to be a health care provider or a public health expert to be a part of this effort. You can help as a patient (developing your own advocacy skills), as a friend (helping others navigate health information web sites), as a parent or teacher (helping children and adolescents develop health and digital literacy skills), and just by raising your own awareness of health literacy issues and sharing the resources you find in your own personal, professional, and social networks.  Of course, if you do want to get more involved, please consider the many educational and community opportunities raised by the Healthy People 2020 initiative. You may be interested in joining the Go Healthy People LinkedIn Group.

Health literacy is not just an issue of patients
Health care providers can also benefit from additional awareness and training on important health literacy issues. Though there’s a constant struggle with managing time, in the long run, efforts to improve health literacy can create efficiencies and reduce health care costs. We know that most doctors believe in patient-centered care. We can help doctors be mindful of strategies (like the teach-back method) and resources they can tap into (like local libraries and the many cool librarians out there,  as well as patient advocates, and community leaders) to help create more effective doctor-patient partnerships. Of course, these efforts all start with listening to patients and making sure their voices are heard and respected.

Technology can be part of the solution
Although we should be mindful that new technology can be particularly frustrating for individuals with health literacy challenges, technologies can also create solutions to health literacy problems, through mobile health applications, by connecting people to the consumer-friendly personal health care records, and perhaps most importantly, by connecting people to social systems for sources of information and emotional support. This is an area ripe for innovation and for thoughtful patient-centered approaches.

Resources to help you learn more about health literacy

During the chat, I identified some resources to help people  learn more about  health literacy. They include:

Many more useful resources were identified by participants in the chat. Please browse the chat transcript or identify your favorites in comments here. Please also consider joining the Diigo group I mentioned. In addition to sharing resources, you can raise discussion topics there.

If you’re not familiar with Diigo, you may want to check out these posts:

Finally, though the Healthy People 2020 initiative is US-centered, we all benefit from learning about each others’ efforts, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, and what we can do better, in diverse settings. Let’s pool our resources and ideas!

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