State Grant Awards Celebrate National Health Literacy Month
The Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) is celebrated October as National Health Literacy Month by announcing 13 grants to state public libraries and adult literacy councils for health and wellness programming and activities.
This is the fifth year of the grant initiative, which is funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. More than 20,000 Oklahomans have been served during the first four years of the project. 21 public libraries and literacy programs received 37 different grants from 2012 to 2015.
The 2016 grants recipients were:
• Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Program
• Beaver County Pioneer Library
• Creek County Literacy Program, Sapulpa
• Great Plains Literacy Council, Altus
• Miami Public Library
• Moore Public Library
• Oklahoma Industrialization Center, Oklahoma City
• Rogers County Literacy Council, Claremore
• Ruth G Harman Adult Literacy Service at TCCL, Tulsa
• Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library
• Southern Oklahoma Library System, Ardmore
• Stillwater Public Library
• Western Oklahoma Learning Center, Elk City
“ODL became interested in the new field of Health Literacy because we already have a network of literacy councils that help people who have problems reading and understanding health information,” according to Leslie Gelders, ODL Literacy Resource Office Coordinator.
“As we began to understand the connection between low literacy and low health, we knew that literacy councils and public libraries could be effective resources for promoting health and wellness.”
Gelders said the state ranks among the worst in the areas of obesity, lack of physical activity, access to primary care doctors, and premature death, according to the United Health Foundation.
The dire statistics demanded a response from Oklahoma’s literacy and library communities, she said.
“The better understanding individuals have about their health choices, the better the outcomes. That’s why this project is so important, and that’s why ODL is providing the funding for these grants.”
While many of the programs focus on assisting individuals with low level reading skills, and those who are learning English, Gelders said the programs have reached much wider audiences.
Activities have included a virtual walking tour, a children’s healthy eating program, CPR training, establishing a community vegetable garden, free exercise classes, healthy cooking demonstrations, and publication of a local health resources directory.
“The library hosting the virtual walking tour was hoping to attract 20 participants. Instead, 282 walkers signed on and they logged more than 106,000 miles,” Gelders said. “This is just one example of how these programs are inspiring whole communities to explore healthier lifestyles.”
For additional information on Oklahoma’s literacy programs, and this Health Literacy initiative, call 405-522-3242.
Health Literacy Highlights
Hula Hoops are Not Just for Kids Anymore.
Exercise coach Kelsey Philo demonstrated using hula hoops as a low impact, fun way to exercise. Participants visited the Champion Public Library 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.” The project is made possible thanks to a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
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.
“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
Since 2012, there have been significant statewide and local health and literacy partnerships, two statewide literacy summits (2012 and 2014), a new health literacy website, wide distribution of health literacy resources, and an increase in awareness of the connection between low literacy and poor health. The 2015 Oklahoma’s health ranking of 45th place was attributed in part to high rates of obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, drug deaths, the lack of immunization of children, lack of primary care physicians, diabetes, lack of annual dental exams, and low consumption of fruits.
More than 7,000 Files of Life have been distributed.
Examples of health literacy activities in Oklahoma
- The Community Garden is a part of the Health Literacy Project and is a cooperative partnership between the Miami Public Library, INTEGRIS Baptist Regional Health Center, Northeastern Tribal Health Systems, Ottawa County Health Department, and Ottawa County DHS. The Health Literacy Project is funded through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries with funds from Library Services and Technology Act, a Federal source of library funding provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
- In May, 2014, Dr. Andrew Pleasant facilitated a planning meeting of health and literacy professionals before presenting at Oklahoma’s second health literacy summit.
- The Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign, facilitated by the State Department of Health, named health literacy as a primary focus of health equity. Staff from the Oklahoma Literacy Resource Office assisted with the development of position statements to address the issue.
- The Literacy Resource Office, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Department of Health and the Aging Services Division of the State Department of Human Services, hosted Living Longer Living Stronger with Chronic Conditions community workshops throughout the state.
- More than 5,000 Files of Life, providing easy to access to important medical information, have been distributed throughout the state.
In 2014, the Literacy Resource Office awarded a second round of health literacy grants with Library Services and Technology Act funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Seven pilot sites provided resources, information, and training to community members and adult learners:
- Creek County Literacy Council, Sapulpa—Offered a 12 weeks of Tai Chi Quan classes; hosted classes for the community on such topics as CPR, First Aid and Poison Control, and Fire Safety and Prevention; and networked with more than 50 organizations to promote healthy lifestyles in Creek County.
- Great Plains Literacy Council, Altus—Incorporated health literacy into tutor training including information on reliable websites and Files of Life; presented health literacy information for Jackson County Health Department nutrition (WIC) classes; and translated health literacy information for Hispanic learners and churches with Hispanic missions.
- Miami Public Library and Miami Literacy Council—Collaborated with the Northeastern Tribal Health System and INTEGRIS Baptist Regional Health Center to distribute information and provide community health workshops; presented healthy eating information to elementary school children; and added health links to website and Facebook sites.
- Moore Public Library—held Zumba classes in the library; coordinated a Healthy Cooking on a Budget demonstration at a Section-8 apartment complex; and promoted healthy hand washing techniques for children attending special story times.
- Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council, Woodward—Incorporated health lessons in English Language classes; arranged for adult learners to tour the hospital; and participated in a Senior Center Flu Preparedness event.
- Project Read, Edmond—Developed and distributed a community social service resource list; collaborated with a local church to provide healthy eating information/activities for children living in a low income neighborhood; participated in Healthy Kids Night where health professionals were on hand to provide health screening for children and information to parents.
- Western Oklahoma Literacy Council, Elk City—developed a bilingual map of the Great Plains Regional Medical Center in Elk City; hosted a 6-part Living Longer Living Stronger with Chronic Conditions workshop; and provided mothers in the English Language class with copies of the publication What to do When Your Child Gets Sick.
In FY2015, ODL awarded $4,000 health literacy grants to eleven library and literacy sites throughout the state. Recipients were: Great Plains Literacy Council, Altus; Antlers Public Library; New Dimension Literacy Council, Ardmore; Chickasaw Regional Library System, Ardmore; Project Read, Edmond; Western Oklahoma Learning Center, Elk City; Fairview City Library; Miami Public Library Literacy Services; Moore Public Library; Creek County Literacy Program, Sapulpa; and Tahlequah 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
YouTube video featuring adults with low literacy skills, including Toni Cordell from Oklahoma (23 minutes)—American Medical Association Foundation
Quick Guide to Health Literacy—U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
MedlinePlus—accurate health information from the National Library of Medicine. The site contains information, tutorials, videos and more.
The Health of America’s Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy—National Center for Education Statistics
Oklahoma Health Literacy Clearinghouse—This site provides information and links to websites.