FLC Hosts its First Health Literacy Summit

Health Literacy Summit Opening SessionLast Friday, FLC hosted its first ever Health Literacy Summit at the University of Central Florida’s Morgridge International Reading Center. About 175 professionals from the health care and education fields joined together to discuss strategies on how not only to better educate their patients and consumers, but how to better their systems as well.

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Andrew Pleasant, drew on this point when he compared the 2-page form banks had to complete to apply for a bailout to the 10+ page form which Florida residents must complete to apply for food assistance. He alluded to lengthy health forms containing gratuitous verbiage, much of which are incomprehensible to people with literacy skills below the 10th grade level. In fact, the most recent national survey’s results showed that less than 15% of Americans are among the highest level of health literacy required to navigate the health system successfully. Clearly, the system needs to be changed.

The discussion continued throughout the day as concurrent sessions broke out, giving individuals the freedom to choose which session they’d like to attend. Presenters from rather diverse backgrounds shared their knowledge, led discussions and provided health literacy resources to participants.

After lunch, attendees filed into the auditorium to join in the discussion with a panel before breaking out into one final round of concurrent sessions. Finally, Executive Director Greg Smith gave some last remarks and attendees were able to hear a an adult learner, Fatima Freire of GROWS Literacy in Apopka, share her story and experience with the Staying Healthy curriculum. Her words were inspiring and reminded everyone how important it is to address the issue of health literacy.

A special thanks to our presenters, keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Pleasant, attendees, our partner organizations, and of course our sponsors: Winter Park Health Foundation and Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

Healthy Eating Just Got Easier

Imagine going to the grocery store with peanut butter on your list.  When you get there, you realize there are over 20 different types of peanut butter – smooth, chunky, light, reduced fat, natural, organic, etc.  Then, try to compare the nutrition labels and ingredients.  This is a difficult task!  We know healthy eating is important.  However, too many choices, difficult words, and limited time make such selection frustrating.  Well, it has just gotten a bit simpler – all you need is a smart phone.  Here are some phone apps (most are free) for you and your students that make healthy eating as easy as pie.

FOODUCATE (free – iTunes or Android)

Fooducate is an app that allows you to scan a food item’s UPC barcode – it then displays a grade (A through F) for the nutrient density of that food – the more dense with nutrients, the better it is for you.  The grading takes into account such things as high salt content, high fructose corn syrup, additives, trans fats, and artificial colors and flavors.  Each food item is graded, calories and notes are provided, and healthier food choices are listed as alternatives.

WATER WORKS ($1.99 – iTunes)

The Water Works app tracks how much water you drink in a day, and then charts your progress over time.  The more water you drink, the more water fills the on-screen jug until you reach your goal.  Especially in these scorching summer months, it is important to stay hydrated – this app will help you do just that.


5-A-DAY (free – iTunes)

Similar to the water app, this app records the number of fruits and vegetables you eat each day.  Fun sounds and screen rewards encourage you to eat more produce, a great way to get nutrients and fiber.  The app also tracks and charts your progress for the day, week, and month so you can see your improvement.


LOCAVORE ($2.99 – iTunes)

Seasonal produce is often the most affordable and best tasting.  Plug your state into this app, and it will list the foods that are at their peak freshness.  It also maps the locations of nearby farmer’s markets, so you can buy locally too.


NUTRITION TIPS (free – iTunes and Google Play [Android])

The Nutrition Tips app is just that – over 500 useful tips to help you remember, understand, and learn good nutrition.


RESTAURANT NUTRITION (free – iTunes and Android)

At home, you know exactly what you put into a dish when cooking.  When you go out to eat, however, it is hard to know exactly what you are eating and whether it is as healthy as you might think.  This app provides the calorie, carbs, protein, and fat content for more than 60,000 menu items in over 250 restaurants, helping you find the nutrition fit that works for you.

GOOD FOOD NEAR YOU (free – iTunes)

If you’re hungry and can’t decide where to go for dinner, this app is perfect.  Type in your location, and this app will list healthy options at nearby restaurants – based on fat content or based on the distance from your location.

Now there are no excuses – healthy eating is just a click away.  Enjoy – bon appétit!

Maribeth Buie: How Your Local Pharmacy Can Help

Every day, unintentional poisonings account for nearly 87 deaths and over 2,200 emergency room visits in the United States.  A large proportion of unintentional poisonings may be attributed to low health literacy.  This is such an important topic that an entire chapter in the Staying Healthy curriculum is devoted to ‘Medicines,’ including the difference between over-the-counter and prescription drugs, reading a prescription label, measuring medicines, side effects/warning labels, etc.

Prescription labels and drug information can be confusing for native English speakers at any education level.  Difficulties arise with small print, ambiguous wording, unfamiliar drug names, and inconsistent formats.  Logic follows that it will be even harder for adult learners.  As they make gains in their health literacy, the local pharmacy can help!

Some pharmacies offer prescription labels and drug information in languages other than English, all your students have to do is request it!

I took an informal poll of four major pharmacies in Florida – Walgreens, CVS, Publix, and WalMart.  Walgreens offers the most in terms of language translation.  They offer prescription labels/drug information in thirteen languages (other than English):  Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portugese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.  Walgreens registers all pharmacists able to speak multiple languages to provide translation services.  So, for example, if a Japanese-speaking customer arrives at the pharmacy, the Walgreens computer system can locate and call a pharmacist that speaks Japanese to provide information or answer questions (if one is on staff anywhere in the United States).  In addition, Walgreens offers large-print labels in English or Spanish upon request.

Other pharmacies also offer translation services.  CVS offers prescription label/drug information in Spanish and French, and Publix offers prescription label/drug information in Spanish.  WalMart does not offer any type of reliable translation service.

It is important to teach your students that a pharmacist is a great resource.  Pharmacists not only help with understanding prescription medicines, but they can also help with understanding over-the-counter medicines – especially which medicine is right for an individual’s particular symptoms.  Another great idea, invite your local pharmacist to speak to your class. Most pharmacies value and encourage community involvement and education.

The ultimate goal is to help adult learners improve their health literacy, including understanding labels and information in English.  However, on the way toward accomplishing that goal, the local pharmacy can be a literal life saver.

Health Literacy and Conference

8:01 a.m.: A young man approaches your clinic window in silence, bending and flexing his fingers while looking you straight in the eye.

8:02 a.m.: The young woman standing behind him moans: Mijn hoofd doet pijn.

8:03 a.m.: A client calls: “A doctor friend thinks I might have fractured my tibia. What is a tibia, anyway? Is there some kind of over-the-counter medication for that?”

You’ve got a long day ahead of you!

“Say What?” is an interactive presentation that challenges participants to bridge the communication gaps that impact health literacy, especially due to education, language, culture and sensory challenges. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand and use basic health concepts, information and services in functional ways that enhance health. Presenter Chris Tittel takes health literacy into consideration every day in his role as public information officer and marketing director for the Monroe County Health Department. Health literacy is key to effective public relations and marketing, especially when researching, drafting and editing press releases, communicating one-on-one with members of the media and the general public and knowing where to refer anyone in need of particular services. “Say What?” also offers tips and tools that can help anyone working in the health care setting communicate more effectively with the general public, clients and each other.

Maribeth Buie: Get Active!

Physical activity guidelines have changed over the years, and they may be a bit confusing.  Typically, national guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity combined with 2 or more days of total-body strength training.

Basically- We should be moving around more.

An easy way to keep track of your physical activity is to wear a pedometer.  Pedometers are relatively inexpensive ($5-$10), worn on your belt, and record the number of steps you take throughout the day.  Make your goal at least 10,000 steps each day (2,500 steps is roughly one mile).

Literacy, Laps and Lunges Scoreboard

Our office recently decided to have some fun and challenge ourselves in the physical activity department.  We started charting our physical activity in a “Literacy, Laps and Lunges” competition.  Stars are rewarded for biking to work, taking the stairs (round-trip in our 11 story building), exercising for 30 minutes, daily pedometer totals (one star per 2,500 steps), or for participating in weekend activities, like helping a friend move.  We have a small trophy that is passed from one winner (person with the most stars for the month) to the next, and everyone chips in to buy them a smoothie (plus lots of accolades)!


The point is to get creative with it!  To help keep you active and motivated, encourage others to join you.  It’s a heart-healthy way to increase your energy, stamina, and positivity.  So, get moving!

2012 Grant Opportunity: Florida Health Literacy Initiative

Deadline next week – March 8th

Eighteen mini-grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded through the generous support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  The Initiative provides training, resources, and funding to assist Florida ESOL and family literacy programs to integrate health education into their instruction.  The objective is to help students develop basic literacy and English language skills while gaining information to make informed choices regarding their health and nutrition.

Applicants must be nonprofit or government-based organizations providing adult ESOL and/or family literacy instruction in Florida.  Services may be delivered via classes, small groups, and one-to-one tutoring.   If you have any questions, please contact our Health Literacy Coordinator, Maribeth Buie, at 407-246-7110, ext. 209.

Click here for the grant application and guidelines.

Sarasota YMCA: HIPPY Families Focus on Nutrition and Staying Healthy

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY, is a parent-based literacy program for low-income parents of preschoolers.  InSarasota, HIPPY families, considered to be the poorest of the poor, face barriers of poverty, as well as struggles associated with lower literacy rates, lower educational attainment levels and higher incidences of substance abuse and crime.

Many low-literate adults can get lost in the healthcare system, lose their benefits and endanger their lives and the lives of their children. HIPPY attempts to engage families, increasing their health literacy by giving them the ability to obtain, process and understand health information and by guiding them in choosing a healthy lifestyle, knowing how to seek medical care and taking advantage of preventive measures.

HIPPY uses a curriculum with a Health Literacy component, which includes standard topics such as finding a doctor, healthy, eating, visiting the doctor, nutrition and fitness; however, staff enhances the promotion of better health by offering additional support.  Staff provides parents with one-on-one time to discuss issues, referral for services and provide simple tips on staying fit and healthy eating.

In helping improve people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively, staff has learned many valuable lessons; it takes simplicity and consistency to help families achieve success.  The following “Healthy Snacking Tips” article from our “Family Times” newsletter is one such tool.

It often seems that the biggest challenge to healthy eating comes not from large meals, but instead from the seemingly small choices we make at snack time.  It is important to remember that while snacks are small, each little choice quickly adds up in your daily nutrition.

Here are some simple tips to help you make better snacking choices. Bon Appetit!

  1. Choose snacks that will satisfy your hunger such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and low-fat dairy products.
  2. Make snacking on vegetables more interesting by dipping them in non-fat salad dressings or hummus
  3. Be creative. Spend a little extra time in the kitchen at the beginning of the week and experiment with different recipes for healthy snacks. There are numerous books and websites specifically dedicated to healthy snack recipes.
  4. Don’t be misled by labels. Foods labeled as low or fat free can still have a high amount of calories. In addition, foods labeled as cholesterol free can still have a significant amount of fat, saturated fat and sugar. Always read the nutrition labels on the back of the product.

Healthy snack options include:

• A sliced apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter

• Baby carrots with some hummus

• A small bowl of high fiber cereal with fat free milk

• Homemade trail mix – a mixture of 2 tablespoons each of almonds, cashews, dried cranberries and raisins

HIPPY is dedicated to promoting better health through a mix of home visitation, parenting group meetings, special projects and service referrals and by consistently reinforcing skills, which can lead to increased health literacy.

Health Literacy Initiative: West Area Adult School

Lori Cabrera

Adult ESOL programs like ours at East and West Area Adult Schools in Auburndale and Lakeland, Florida serve students in many ways.  Focusing on health literacy is one way that we can have a huge impact not just on our students, but on their families as well.  As the head of the ESOL department at West Area, I knew we needed to improve the way we address health literacy in our program, because I have seen evidence of the gaps in students’ knowledge and know how dangerous that can be in their lives outside of the classroom.   This could be when there’s an emergency situation, when they need to manage a chronic disease, or they need to see a medical professional but lack the skill to communicate with him or her in English.

The Health Literacy Grant we received from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida has been a huge help in our efforts to prepare our students to deal with health situations.   We were able to purchase hands-on materials, visual aids, flip charts, and other items to help our students grasp these topics.  We purchased a new text series called “Health Stories” that we are using to help our lower-level ESOL students learn more about health.  We arranged training for twenty students in Adult CPR, and they received their certification.  We gave out health promotion materials focusing on hand washing habits, finding ways to exercise, and steps to healthier eating.  It has been a very positive experience for all of us, students and teachers alike, and we have all learned a lot in the process that will help us reach the goal of better health in the future.

Lori Cabrera
ESOL Department Head
West Area Adult School (Polk County Schools)
Lakeland, FL

For more information on Florida’s Health Literacy Initiative, please check out our website.

Sustainable Recipes: New Beginnings Health Literacy Program

My name is Susan Warner and I am the Program Manager and Instructor for the New Beginnings Family Literacy Program in Bunnell, FL.  Our program was chosen to be a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Heath Literacy Grant recipient.  I chose to apply for the grant for a few different reasons, first because of the collaboration I have with a Family Nutrition Program Educator and realizing the importance of obesity prevention not only in adults but children as well.  Mrs. Krista Busey facilitates classes twice per month and focuses on nutrition and meals on a budget.  With the grant we have been able to expand upon that and have created box gardens which are located right outside of the back door of our program.  We planted and maintained those crops and once they were ready to harvest we prepared low cost nutritional meals with the vegetables that we harvested.  The families were also given the materials and supplies to create their very own recipe books.  The recipe books are prepared much like a scrapbook with a lot of thought and personal touches that they will be proud to share with others and actually use at home for future meals.  In addition to our project, we utilized the Staying Healthy curriculum, which was a great benefit.  The families learned about calories, fiber, chronic diseases, and where to go for low cost medical care.  Our project is continuing and we will begin to plant our next crop seeds very soon.  This has been a very exciting project that all of the families enjoyed and learned from and we hope to keep it going for many more families in the future.

New Beginnings is a family literacy program designed to empower families to grow toward independence together.

Staying Healthy tips: Nutrition

New Year’s resolutions often include a resolve to get healthier, by moving more or eating better.  Staying Healthy is a great health literacy tool to teach about good nutrition.  According to Florida’s adult ESOL learners, learning about healthy eating habits is the most important tool gained from the Staying Healthy section of adult literacy courses.

Staying Healthy’s chapter on nutrition explains about important nutrients, how to decipher a nutrition label, what to eat, what not to eat, and how to determine a healthy weight using the BMI scale.  When teaching about nutrition, there are a few simple tips that make nutrition easy to understand:

1.  Aim for more fruits and vegetables (5 to 9 per day), more fiber (20 grams per day), and less sodium (less than 1,200 milligrams per day).  Try to incorporate whole-grains.  Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products instead of their full-fat counterparts.

2.  Balance calories by enjoying your food, but eating less.  Avoid oversize portions.  The plate rule, promoted by the FDA and Michelle Obama, is an easy way to do this at meal time.  Half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter o the plate should be whole grains, and one quarter of the plate should be protein.  See Figure 1.

Figure 1.  Plate Rule.  Source:  Choosemyplate.gov.

3.  Try frozen or canned fruits and vegetables if fresh produce is too expensive – just try to avoid added ingredients like sodium, sugar, butter, or sauces.

4.  Drink 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day.  Avoid sugary drinks.

Combined with moving more, these simple steps will put you on the right track toward staying healthy in the new year!