Health Literacy in ABE Resources
1. Developing Health Literacy in Adult Basic Education (ABE) Programs: Partnering with Community Health, and Advocating with Legislators (Select to see this as a handout.)
This document can be used in advocating for community health and ABE program partnerships with community organizations, and with legislators and other policy makers. It includes a fact sheet on the importance of developing health literacy in adult basic education programs that lays out the depth and breadth of low literacy/limited English and associated low health literacy and poor health. Statistics on the resulting economic costs are provided. It makes the case for the role of the Adult Basic Education system in developing Health Literacy. The document also includes descriptions of three adult literacy coalitions that have implemented health literacy programing in their member ABE programs.
The Importance of Developing Health Literacy in Adult Basic Education Programs What is Health Literacy? Health Literacy is defined as the array of skills needed to obtain, process and understand basic health information. These skills are primarily in reading, writing, math and technology. The national Adult Basic Education system works to develop these skills in low literacy/limited English populations. Who has Low Health Literacy? An estimated 90 million Americans have low health literacy, * including many: With lower socioeconomic status or education; Who are elderly; With low English proficiency (LEP) and/or who are non-native speakers of English; and Who are receiving publicly-financed health coverage or other socio-economic assistance. The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition’s survey of nine adult basic education programs found an average of 97% of students fall into these categories. This is a clarion call for Adult Basic Education to implement Health Literacy within their programs and classrooms.
• Only 12% of U.S. Adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage the demands of our complex healthcare system, and even these individuals’ ability to absorb and use health information can be compromised by stress or illness. **
• Compared to those with proficient health literacy, adults with low health literacy experience:
4 times higher health care costs
6% more hospital visits
2 day-longer hospital stays
Source: Partnership for Clear Health Communication at the National Patient Safety Foundation.
• Talking Point for Legislators and other policy makers: Through all its impacts – medical errors, increased illness and disability, loss of wages, and compromised public health – low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion every year.***
Descriptions of three Adult Literacy Coalitions that have implemented Health Literacy
Programming in their Member ABE programs over the Last Decade
These descriptions of adult literacy coalitions that have implemented health literacy include a summary of teaching resources, guidelines for implementing health literacy programs in ABE and partnering with community health organizations. A link is provided to each coalition.
Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition: In its third year of Health Literacy programming, funded by the Chicago Community Trust and managed by the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, they will have reached over 500 students and nearly 40 instructors and administrators in the field of Adult Education. The participant-centered approach takes students through a Healthy Communities Unit including seven lesson plans: Talking to a Doctor; Tour of a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center; Heart Disease; Diabetes; Mental Health; Personal Care and Obesity/Diet Management. The connection students make with the FQHC is invaluable and an important goal is that the whole family is impacted to change and/or maintain healthy behaviors. http://www.chicagocitywideliteracy.com/programs/health-literacy/
Florida Literacy Coalition - The Florida Health Literacy Initiative is a statewide grant program administered by the Florida Literacy Coalition (FLC) and funded by the Florida Blue Foundation. It provides training, resources, and financial support to assist Florida literacy, ESOL and family literacy programs to integrate health education into their instruction. The objective is to teach students English language, literacy and math skills while sharing information and resources to help them to navigate the health care system and make informed choices regarding their health and nutrition. Since 2009, the Initiative has served more than 16,000 students in partnership with adult education and literacy programs throughout Florida. http://www.floridaliteracy.org/literacy_resources__teacher_tutor__health_literacy.html
Wisconsin Health Literacy is a division of Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., and works within the state and beyond to raise awareness of health literacy and promote clear communication between those who give and those who receive health care services. Programs and services impact health outcomes, patient experience, chronic disease management, transitions of care, access and cost. WHL provides consultation, training, plain language document review and website testing for hospitals, clinics, public health departments, health insurers, and other organizations. Other Major Wisconsin Health Literacy Initiatives:
• Health literacy projects leveraged through public/private partnerships to:
• improve medication adherence
• reduce opioid abuse
• improve refugee and immigrant health
• improve Alzheimer’s health outcomes
• reduce inappropriate Emergency Room use
• increase consumer engagement in their health care
• Community/academic partnership to implement easier-to-read medication labels in pharmacies throughout Wisconsin
• Nationally recognized Health Literacy Summit (biennial) to share tools and best practices to improve health care quality and
reduce costs; attendees in 2017 came from 29 states and 2 foreign countries http://wisconsinliteracy.org/health-literacy/index.html
* L. Neilsen-Bohlman, A.M. Panzer, and D.A. Kindig. “Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion.” (Washington, DC: National
Academies Press, 2004).
*** J. Vernon, A. Trujillo, S. Rosenbaum, and B. DeBuono. “Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy.” University of
2. Slides for presenting the second ODC ABE and Health Paper, on partnerships. http://literacy.ala.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Public-Libraries-and-ABE-Programs-ODC-paper.pdf
3. Resources: Books, Programs, Curricula, Toolkits, Guides, Other Online Resources (In table below)
Easy-to-read book written for new immigrants/ELLs includes
basic information about health issues and access. The teacher's
guide includes specific lesson plans and activities.
Florida Literacy Coalition
Literacy for Life
Written for a library-based class to improve English skills in the context of health, this curriculum includes downloadable lessons plans, student worksheets and audio files.
Eight-lesson curriculum uses picture stories to address health literacy issues. Can be adapted to any level.
Kate Singleton, Fairfax County Public Schools
Online collection of resources for teachers, learners and administrators.
Virginia Literacy for Life
This guide is designed to help adult educators create curricula, lessons, and evaluation plans. It includes an overview of skills to address, planning templates, and links to sample lessons.