Thursday, November 15, 2012

Promoting Health Literacy - Spread the word!

On October 1999, Helen Osborne launched the Health Literacy Month. It has been celebrated every year since, in events large and small, all over the world. Health literacy can be promoted through a wide variety of venues, including:

•    An event at the hospital
•    A workshop for clinic personnel
•    A library’s sharing of effective patient education materials
•    An employer-sponsored health fair

Ms Osborne has written an excellent manual for anyone considering promoting health literacy: Health Literacy Handbook. The Event Planning Guide for Health Literacy Advocates. You can order a copy @ http://www.healthliteracy.com.

Here are some suggestions when considering and planning a health literacy promotion.

Planning your promotion

Before you begin, you’ll want to put some thought into what you hope to achieve as a result of your event. Is there a current health problem or issue in your area that needs special attention in terms of low-literate patients? For example, are you seeing more patients from the slums coming to you with injection abscesses because of unsafe injection practises? How can you teach them the dangers of unnecessary injections? Once you know your goals, you can choose the best way to conduct your event to achieve those objectives.

If you are planning a community-based event to promote health literacy in your neighbourhood, then partnering with other organisations (such as local pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and the government primary health centre) is essential. It is important to include people from a variety of areas in your planning, including your end users: people with limited literacy skills.

What type of event should you have?

What will people do at your event? Your answer to this question will, of course, depend on your objectives. If your objectives are to increase general awareness, you may wish to have one or more presentations about the issue of health literacy and what can be done about it. If you would like your staff to learn how to communicate in “plain language” with patients or have them learn the “Teach-back” technique, you will probably want to have a workshop or two in which you teach these skills and provide hands-on practice.

While you can host a health literacy event at any time, there may be other events going on in your area that would support your initiative and perhaps result in greater attendance or a larger impact overall.

If an organisation in your area is already having an event on one of the many international health awareness days such as World Heart Day or Rose Day, then you can join with them!

Similarly, if a hospital is organising a free health check-up camp; or a Rotary Club is arranging a blood bank drive, you can piggy back onto this by providing a booth or speaker on promoting health literacy. This approach may be an excellent avenue for your first promotion, because you won’t have to organise the whole event – just your part of it.

Promoting your event

This can be quite challenging, because health literacy is not considered to be a “sexy“ issue. Try roping in a celebrity as a spokesperson, so you can attract media attention. Promotion possibilities include:

•    Creating flyers or posters that can be posted on community bulletin boards.
•    Sending notices to community-based websites for inclusion on their event calendars.
•    Creating an eye-catching graphic for your event.
•    Creating press releases for local newspapers.
•    Inviting the local media (radio, TV) to attend your event.

Evaluating your event

Once the event is over, you will want to assess its impact and the success you achieved in accomplishing your initial objectives. This will help you do a better job the next time you organise similar events – after all, promoting health literacy is an on-going task!
HELP is organizing a conference on “ Putting Patients First Through Health Literacy  “. This will be on Sunday, 2nd December’12 at Nehru Center at 10.30a.m. to 1.p.m.  The website is www.patientpower.in/2012

The conference will be followed by a health literacy workshop in the afternoon. Helen Osborne, President, Health Literacy, a world renowned  Consultant from US , will be delivering the keynote and conducting the workshop.  Her website is at www.healthliteracy.com

At this time, we will be releasing the book, Deciphering Medical Gobbledygook: Promoting Health Literacy to Put Patients First , authored by Dr Aniruddha Malpani and Juliette Siegfried. This is Chapter 16 from that book

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