Health Literacy Missouri: Our health literacy ‘elevator speech’

Health literacy is a nebulous concept. It relates to a variety of challenges that exist in the health care system and solutions that are ever evolving.

Since Health Literacy Missouri opened for business in December 2009, we’ve continually refined how we talk about “health literacy” and how to relate it to our various audiences.

As we celebrate Health Literacy Month, we want to share some of the main points we’ve come up with as we’ve developed our trainings over the course of two years. Our hope is that it inspires your own “elevator speech” about health literacy.

  • Health literacy is the bridge between the patient and the health care system. It is about giving patients the ability to make good health decisions in their everyday lives.
  • Approximately 90 million American adults have basic or below basic literacy levels. This is roughly the combined populations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
  • Low health literacy costs the United States economy between $106 billion and $238 billion a year. This would be enough money to insure 47 million people – the entire populations of California and Missouri combined.

We know it’s impossible to address all of the barriers that exist within the health care system, but awareness of the issue and what factors impact a patient’s ability to succeed in the health care system is a first step. Beyond that, we encourage these best practices for improving health literacy in your work:

  • Apply these basic plain language principles when communicating verbally: slow down, move from points that are most important to know to least important, break complex information into chunks and limit your message to 3-5 main points.
  • Use teach-back, a method that lets patients describe concepts in their own words and explain or demonstrate how they will do a treatment.

What health literacy messages and practices do you use?

For more information about our organization and health literacy, visit our website.

Health Literacy Partnerships Training Opportunity

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the Florida Literacy Coalition‘s health literacy coordinator, Naomi Soto, will be at the Leon County Health Dept. in Tallahassee, facilitating a training for health literacy educators and health professionals about the power of partnerships in health literacy education.

Staying Healthy

The workshop will emphasize the importance of localized partnerships between libraries, community-based organizations and healthcare professionals.  The training will include an overview of the freely available Staying Healthy curriculum and its additions Women’s Health and Coping with Stress. The workshop will also highlight hands-on classroom activities and leave time for discussion and idea sharing. All participants will also receive a free copy of the Staying Healthy curriculum.

Two trainings will be offered (both trainings will cover the same information):

  1. 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9
  2. 3-6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9

**Three CEUs will be offered for all nurses who attend! 

The Florida Department of Health Women’s Health Program will be giving away health materials for community-based organizations to use in their health literacy outreach efforts.  The materials offered will cover the following topics: Heart Disease, Breast Cancer, Teen Health and Development, Parenting Skills, HIV/AIDS, Mental Health and more.  All items will be given away on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There is no cost to attend this training opportunity, but registration is required.  So tell all of your friends about it!

Training Venue: Leon County Health Dept., 872 W. Orange Ave., Tallahassee, FL  32304.

Have questions?  Call Naomi Soto at FLC – (407) 246-7110 ext. 209, or send her an email: More information about FLC’s health literacy initiative is also available here.

This is a collaborative learning event brought to you by the Florida Literacy Coalition and the Florida Department of Health Women’s Health Program with space allowance from Leon County Health Department – Office if Minority Health.  This workshop was made possible through the generous support of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.