Health Literacy in Oklahoma

Look for upcoming Health & Wellness Programs at a library near you!

Health Literacy Highlights

Stillwater Public Library’s StoryWalk

The Stillwater Public Library celebrated National Health Literacy Month with a groundbreaking for their StoryWalk® in the Park program. Funds for this project are provided by Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered through Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

“StoryWalk® in the Park is a way for children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time,” said Lynda Reynolds, library director. “The concept is simple. Place bright and engaging pages of a must-read picture book along a path and people will stop to read as they walk. Not only does it encourage walkers to read, but it also encourages readers to walk.”

The StoryWalk® will be completed and open for reading in March 2018. The City of Stillwater Parks and Recreation and Operations staff will be installing the posts around the walking trail that snakes through the park. See more on the story [….]

Stillwater StoryWalk

Jim Scott, City of Stillwater Parks and Rec
Alane Zannotti, City Council
Laura Shellhammer, Early Childhood Coalition
Cathy Albright, Library Board
Senator Tom Dugger
Wanda Cunningham, Library Board
Elizabeth Murray, Children’s Librarian
Robin Cornwell, Library Board
Kendra Smith, Payne County Health Dept.
Lynda Reynolds, Library Director

Hula Hoops are Not Just for Kids Anymore.

Hula HoopingExercise coach Kelsey Philo demonstrated using hula hoops as a low impact, fun way to exercise. Participants visited the Champion Public Library in Ardmore to learn a new way to exercise. “Hooping helps adults maintain spinal mobility as well as center of balance, not to mention a workout of core muscles,” said project director Pam Bean with Southern Oklahoma Library System. “This is just one way our health literacy program is encouraging community members to exercise, eat right, and enjoy life.” Hula hoop expert, Kelssy Philo (right), demonstrated extreme hooping to children at the Moore Public Library. She explained that hooping exercises the body and reading exercises the mind. The project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


See the 2017 Health Literacy Grant Recipients.

Background informationMedical symbols

Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V

The American Medical Association Foundation has said poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than his age, socioeconomic status, education, or ethnicity.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, persons with limited literacy skills are more likely to have chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma and are less likely to manage them effectively.

The Institute for Medicine’s Board of Neuroscience and Health has found that adults need basic health literacy skills to speak with medical professionals, access health information, follow dosage instructions, make informed health decisions, and to use medical tools for personal and family health care.

See Health Literacy Fact Sheet.

Oklahoma’s Efforts

“Health information is so important and so many people don’t understand how to ask the right questions. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone you don’t know something.  As long as you treat us with respect and show the right attitude, we’re not going to be offended by how many questions you have to ask us in order to help us find the information we’re looking for.” —Carol, adult learner from Tulsa

In 2017, the 28th annual America’s Health Rankings, produced by United Health Foundation, listed Oklahoma as one of the 7 least healthy states. Contributing to the low score were high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and low rates of physical inactivity, child immunizations and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Oklahoma ranked 43rd overall.

More and more, there are opportunities for all types of organizations to collaborate to promote health and wellness in the community. Nationally and in Oklahoma, public libraries are resources for credible health information and sites for health-related programming directed toward children, teens, adults, and families.

pioneer library moving to the beat exercise

Pioneer Library System in Tecumseh hosts a “Moving to the Beat” exercise class. Great way to warm up on a cold day! This class is funded by a grant from ODL and IMLS.

Why libraries? A 2015 Pew Research Study indicated that 73% of people who visited a public library in America went there looking for answers about their health. Libraries are trusted community institutions that offer a non-threatening environment, are staffed with information experts, and provide free access to a wide variety of resources.

For the past six years, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries has helped foster significant partnerships at state and local levels to promote health and wellness. Federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services allowed ODL to offer health literacy grants to public libraries and adult literacy programs. As a result of this funding, grantees have targeted specific health needs of their community and expanded resources and services to address these needs.


I am proud to say that I learned so much from the presenters.  I have a heart issue and when I applied what I learned to my everyday life, I lost weight and feel great!” 
—adult learner from Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Oklahoma County
File of LifeMore than 9,000 Files of Life have been distributed.
“This project gave our library a new focus based on a real community need. We have come away from this determined that providing for lifetime learning about ways to achieve healthy living will become one of our core programs.”
—Marcia Johnson, Miami Public Library

Examples of local health literacy activities in Oklahoma in 2016-2017

Health Literacy Garden Project by OIC

A new garden at Opportunities Industrialization Center of Oklahoma County became a teaching tool for adult learners and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) class.

Southern Oklahoma Library System hosted a number of health and wellness programs in public libraries throughout south central Oklahoma. Classes included everything from healthy cooking demonstrations and Tai Chi to a hay bale garden and chair exercise classes at a Veteran’s center.

OSU-Ext-workshop- Learning & Understanding about Salt and Sodium

A flyer from Creek County Literacy Program in Sapulpa advertised one of their 44 health and wellness classes.

Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services offered 45 classes, including Stress Management, Preventing Influenza, and Healthy Aging. Special health presentations provided basic health and wellness information to adult learners participating in the adult literacy program.

Beaver County Pioneer Library helped children understand the importance of eating fruit and vegetables during the Grow It, Try It, Like It program. During the 4-week series, library staff shared books about fruits and vegetables, and community partners talked to parents and children about healthy eating. Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates classes were also available, free of charge, to members of the community.

Moore Public Library reached more than 2,835 children, teens and adults through more than 108 health and wellness classes.  Their Argentine Tango Class provided a fun and interesting way to get participants up and moving.  A Back to School Health Fair was attended by more than 255 community members.

SW-OKC Library National Identification System Project

A health fair at Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library offered parents the opportunity to have their child’s information put in a National Identification System. In the case of an emergency, the system can help identify the child by DNA, finger print, voice analysis, and teeth imprints.

Seminole Public Library collaborated with a number of community partners to promote physical activity with Jump Rope Clubs in six schools throughout the county.  By the end of the project, participating third through eighth grade students improved their jumps per minute and body mass index. They also learned how to read food labels, why it is important to reduce sugar and salt consumption, and why exercise is good for heart health.

Western Oklahoma Learning Center in Elk City provided health wellness information to English language learners, seniors, and the community at large. Two family swim nights featuring water aerobics for all ages, and low intensity exercise classes were available to seniors. Twenty-six community members participated in the American Public Health Association’s Billion Step Challenge logging 12,960 steps.

“As a result of this grant, the Noble Public Library became a hub for community members, organizations, and nonprofits to create new partnerships. We were able to assist local residents with access to health information and tools. Several participants are eager for the next round of classes, frequently coming by the library to ask about upcoming dates.”
—Noble Public library

Helpful Health Literacy Websites and Other Resources

Plain Language Resources—National Institute for Health

Simply Put—A guide for creating easy-to-understand materials

Health Literacy Information—National Network of Libraries of Medicine

Florida Literacy Coalition—free health literacy curriculum

YouTube video featuring adults with low literacy skills, including Toni Cordell from Oklahoma (23 minutes)—American Medical Association Foundation— an essential resource for health information

MedlinePlus—accurate health information from the National Library of Medicine. The site contains information, tutorials, videos and more.

2017 County Health Profiles for Oklahoma—reports focus on health factors of the residents of each county


Health Literacy Partners 2017-2018

Alyssa Burnett-Musical Me in OKC
Barnsdall-Ethel Briggs Memorial Library
Bartlesville Colaw Fitness
Bartlesville Imaging and Sleep Center
Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services
Bartlesville Public Library
Beaver County Pioneer Library
Beckam County Health Department
Blanchard Public Library
Bob Boatman-Bermuda Bob’s Vegatable Farm, Ft. Gibson
Carter County Health Department
Casa Hispanic Happy Mouth, Bartlesville
Chamber of Commerce, Duncan
Chickasaw Nation Get Fresh Nutrition Program
City of Piedmont
City of Stillwater (Opperations Dept. and Parks & Rec. Department)
Cleveland County Health Department
Complete Cosmetic Care Dentistry, Glenpool
Creek County Literacy Program, Sapulpa
Devon Murray & Dr. Joseph Shetler, O.D.Northeastern State University
Duncan Public Library
Early Childhood Coalition, Stillwater
Earlywine Park YMCA, Oklahoma City
Eastlake Aging Service Eastlake Church, Oklahoma City
Elk City Carnegie Library
Elk City Head Start
Elk City Housing Authority
Elk City Parks and Recreation Department
Elk City Regional Adult Learning Center
First Baptist Church, Elk City
Great Plains Literacy Council, Altus
H.F.V. Wilson Community Center, Ardmore
Heart to Heart Pregnancy Care Center, Elk City
Hula Hoop Emporium, Dewey
Jane Phillip’s Diabetic Education, Bartlesville
Jane Phillip’s Hospital Cardiology, Bartlesville
Jane Phillip’s Hospital Wellness Center, Bartlesville
Kiamichi Technology Center, Atoka County
Lauran Charney-Yoga Therapeutics, Piedmont
Love County Senior Citizens, Marietta
Mary Pinzon from Integris, Oklahoma City
McAlester Regional Literacy Council
McClain County Health Department
McClainCounty Healthy Living Program (TSET)
Med-World Pharmacy, Sapulpa
Mercy Hospital, Love County
Miami Public Library, Miami
Mona Puckett, Piedmont
Moore Public Library
Natural Grocers, Norman
Noble Public Library
Norman Public Library West
Norman Public Library
Nueva Vida Iglesia Cristiana, Elk City
OHAI, Southwest Center for Healthy Aging
OHAI-Northeast Center of Healthy Aging
OHAI-Northeast Center of Healthy Aging
OIC of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom-OSU Extension
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Cleveland County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Creek County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Love County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Murray County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Muskogee County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Stephens County
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Washington County
Oklahoma Regional Food Bank, Oklahoma City
OSU Master Gardners, Oklahoma City
Payne County Health Department
Phillips Petroleum Fitness Trainer, Bartlesville
Piedmont Parks Department
Piedmont Public Library
Q.B. Boydston Public Library, Ft. Gibson
Ranna Bigdley-Paiseley Café, Norman
Reesor’s Foods, Sapulpa
Shawnee Public Library, Shawnee
Southern Oklahoma Area Partners, Ardmore
Southern Oklahoma Food Resource Center, Ardmore
Southern Oklahoma Library System, Ardmore
Southern Technology Center, Ardmore
Southwest Oklahoma City Library
Stillwater Public Library
Tecumseh Public Library
Thomas-Wilhite Memorial Library, Perkins
TSET Healthy Living Program serving Payne County
United States Department of Agriculture, Blanchard
Valir Physical Therapy, Piedmont
Variety Care, Oklahoma City
Washington County Health Department
Washington County Tri-County-Tech
Westerm Oklahoma Family Care Center, Elk City
Western Oklahoma Learning Center, Elk City
Western Oklahoma Wellness Initiative, Elk City
WinStar Hotel, Thackerville


To contact staff of the Literacy Resource Office, use ODL’s Staff Contact Form or Department Contact Form.