Health Literacy in Oklahoma

Health Literacy Highlights

Stillwater Public Library’s StoryWalk

The Stillwater Public Library celebrated National Health Literacy Month with a groundbreaking for our 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. 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 Hooping

Hula hoop expert, Kelssy Philo, demonstrated extreme hooping to children at the Moore Public Library. 

Hula Hoop for FitnessExercise 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.


See the 2017 Health Literacy Month and 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 2015, the 25nd annual America’s Health Rankings, produced by United Health Foundation, ranked Oklahoma as one of the bottom 5 least healthy states, 45th overall.

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.

“I didn’t understand the right way for my son to use his inhaler until I read the book.”—adult learner, Project Read (What to do When Your Child Gets Sick)
File of LifeMore than 7,000 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 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. Community Garden Sign MiamiThe 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.
    Health Literacy

    Blanco Martinez and Blanco Castaneda [left two], both learners at the Great Plains Literacy Council in Altus, read the recipe and prepare No Bake Breakfast Bars during a Fresh Start health literacy cooking class. Oklahoma State University Extension Nutrition Assistant Becky Luna [second from right] oversees the activity and provides nutrition information with assistance from ASCOG Title V Literacy Assistant Judy Miller [far right], who is also a tutor for the literacy service.

  • 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

Health Literacy Brochure—ODL

Oklahoma Health Literacy Clearinghouse

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

Quick Guide to Health Literacy—U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Improving Health Literacy at

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.

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