4. Priority Area: Health Education

State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) 2021-2025

HEALTH EDUCATION

Health education is a fundamental pillar for any country and society. It is a process that seeks out ways for the population to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary that will allow them to make good decisions regarding their own health. Health education also helps us to analyze all the factors that influence the overall health of a population (- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Health literacy is a central focus of Healthy People 2030, which aims eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all (- Healthy People 2030). 

 

Health education and health literacy are the overarching goals of the ADH and its community partners in improving health equity in Arkansas.

 

 

Priority Area - Health Education
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Why Is This Important?

Addressing health literacy by improving skills among current and future health professionals as well as consumers will position ADH to make progress in its range of strategic health priorities.

Low health literacy is a problem because it can lead to poor health and poor quality of life. People who struggle to understand and use health information are more likely to have less knowledge about diseases and conditions and to have serious health problems. This is because people with low health literacy are less likely to understand and follow their doctors’ orders. They are less likely to take their medicine the right way and less likely to get the preventive health services they need before they get sick. So, they are more likely to have serious complications from chronic diseases, such as obesity, asthma, diabetes, or heart failure. They are likely to have more emergency room visits, more (or longer) hospital stays, a shorter life expectancy, and higher medical costs. Source: 2019-2020 Planning Team.

Only 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. has proficient health literacy skills. Efforts must be undertaken to improve individual patient and consumer skills and to lessen the demands placed on patients and consumers by health care systems and other communicators of health information.  Source: https://health.gov/our-work/national-health-initiatives/healthy-people/healthy-people-2030/health-literacy-healthy-people-2030

Further, health literacy is a central focus of Healthy People 2030. One of the initiative’s overarching goals demonstrates this focus: “Eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all.” Healthy People 2030 addresses both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy and provides the following definitions:

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

These definitions are a change from the health literacy definition used in Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020: “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” The new definitions follows: Emphasize people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it; focus on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones; incorporate a public health perspective; and acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy

SHIP Partners
  • Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP)
  • Arkansas Community Health Worker Association 
  • Arkansas Farm Bureau
  • Arkansas Legislators
  • Arkansas Department of Health
  • Child Health Advisory Committee (CHAC)
  • Churches
  • Educational Cooperatives
  • Foundations
  • Health Ambassadors
  • Healthy Active Arkansas
  • Public Libraries
  • Retired professionals
  • School District Wellness Committees
  • University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
  • University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) Center for Health Literacy
  • University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) College of Public Health
Resources

From: https://health.gov/our-work/national-health-initiatives/healthy-people/healthy-people-2030/health-literacy-healthy-people-2030

Health literacy is a central focus of Healthy People 2030. One of the initiative’s overarching goals demonstrates this focus: “Eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all.” 

Six Healthy People objectives — developed by the Health Communication and Health Information Technology Workgroup — are related to health literacy:

How does Healthy People define health literacy?

Healthy People 2030 addresses both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy and provides the following definitions:

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

These definitions are a change from the health literacy definition used in Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020: “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” The new definitions:

  • Emphasize people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it

  • Focus on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones

  • Incorporate a public health perspective

  • Acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy

Learn more about the history of Healthy People’s health literacy definitions.

Personal health literacy

Healthy People 2030’s definition of personal health literacy is aligned with the concept that people’s health literacy can be assessed at a given point in time. Such a definition is important for conducting both population studies and research on interventions aimed at ensuring equal access to information and services for people with limited literacy skills.

The new definition — with its emphasis on the use of health information and its public health perspective — may also prompt new ways of studying and promoting personal health literacy. In addition, it encourages efforts to address the skills that help people move from understanding to action and from a focus on their own health to a focus on the health of their communities.

Organizational health literacy

By adopting a definition for organizational health literacy, Healthy People acknowledges that personal health literacy is contextual and that producers of health information and services have a role in improving health literacy. The definition also emphasizes organizations’ responsibility to equitably address health literacy, in line with Healthy People 2030’s overarching goals.

In addition, including a definition for organizational health literacy in Healthy People aligns with the HHS National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

 

From: https://health.gov/our-work/national-health-initiatives/health-literacy/national-action-plan-improve-health-literacy

National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multi-sector effort to improve health literacy. The Action Plan is based on 2 core principles:

  • All people have the right to health information that helps them make informed decisions

  • Health services should be delivered in ways that are easy to understand and that improve health, longevity, and quality of life

The Action Plan contains 7 goals that will improve health literacy and strategies for achieving them:

  1. Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable

  2. Promote changes in the health care system that improve health information, communication, informed decision-making, and access to health services

  3. Incorporate accurate, standards-based, and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in child care and education through the university level

  4. Support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community

  5. Build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies

  6. Increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy

  7. Increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions

Many of the strategies highlight actions that particular organizations or professions can take to further these goals. It will take everyone working together in a linked and coordinated manner to improve access to accurate and actionable health information and usable health services. By focusing on health literacy issues and working together, we can improve the accessibility, quality, and safety of health care; reduce costs; and improve the health and quality of life of millions of people in the United States.

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Suggested Citation

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2010). National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. Washington, DC: Author.

Footnotes

1 Nielsen-Bohlman, L., Panzer, A. M., & Kindig, D. A. (Eds.). (2004). Health literacy: A prescription to end confusion.Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

2 Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin, Y., & Paulsen, C. (2006). The health literacy of America's adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006-483). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

3 Rudd, R. E., Anderson, J. E., Oppenheimer, S., & Nath, C. (2007). Health literacy: An update of public health and medical literature. In J. P. Comings, B. Garner, & C. Smith. (Eds.), Review of adult learning and literacy (vol. 7) (pp 175–204). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Healthy People 2010 (2nd ed.) [with Understanding and Improving Health (vol. 1) and Objectives for Improving Health (vol. 2)]. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

5 Berkman, N. D., DeWalt, D. A., Pignone, M. P., Sheridan, S. L., Lohr, K. N., Lux, L., et al. (2004). Literacy and health outcomes(AHRQ Publication No. 04-E007-2). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Outcome Measures
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