Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership Blog ~ Provider Education

News Year’s resolutions: Health literacy edition

This year we’re bringing a new perspective on the New Year’s resolution tradition – health literacy! Here are some resolutions providers can adopt to increase health literacy at their organizations.

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Plain language examples for vaccines

Between the annual flu shot and the new COVID vaccines, there is a lot of talk about vaccinations right now! Some of the words and phrases can be confusing. Here are some plain language translations for common vaccine terms.

Vaccinations/immunizations: When a person is given medicine to make their body learn to fight a disease.

Adverse reaction: An unexpected health outcome – like redness or an allergic reaction.

Antibody: A protein your body makes to fight illness.

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Ensuring a healthy future with health literacy

Since 1980, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People initiative has set measurable objectives to improve the health and well-being of people across the country.
This year, the initiative launched Healthy People 2030. It lays out datadriven national objectives needed to improve peoples’ health over the next decade.

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Investing in language and cultural resources

Culture affects many things, including how people approach health care. Minnesota is a diverse state, with more than 100 languages other than English spoken at home2; a variety of urban, suburban and rural cities; and a wide range of family incomes.  This is why investing in language and cultural resources is a key priority of the Minnesota Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

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Increase and Improve Patient-Centered Resources

The health care system is complex, and the fragmentation of the industry can lead to confusion for patients as they communicate with agents, insurance companies, health care providers, clinics, employers, pharmacists, care coordinators, and others who are involved with their care.

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Health literacy training is important for people of all ages

Learning how to maintain good health and understand the health care system can – and should – start early in life and continue throughout.

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Streamline processes to improve health literacy

Our health care system is large and fragmented, making it easy for patients to feel lost. Navigating through a variety of health care facilities, providers, rules, and requirements is not only difficult, but also daunting and confusing.

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Making health information understandable and jargon-free

Nearly 90% of Americans have difficulty using everyday health information that is routinely available. That makes it harder for patients to understand their options and make responsible, well-informed health decisions.

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Let's talk about Plain Language

One best practice for improving health literacy is to use plain language. Plainlanguage.gov describes plain language as "communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it". Written material is in plain language if your audience can:

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Happy Health Literacy Month!

Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Healthy People 2010).
We know that health literacy involves more than just patients. I like to think of health literacy as being influenced by three areas:

1. The patient's ability to obtain, understand and act on health information.

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