3 Ways You Can Observe Minority Health Month
Every April the nation observes National Minority Health Month in an effort to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations and to reduce health disparities. This year’s theme, “Better Health Through Better Understanding” is focused on improving and expanding culturally and linguistically competent healthcare services, information, and resources. The Office of Minority Health states, “When patients are provided with culturally and linguistically appropriate information, they are empowered to create heathier outcomes for themselves and their communities.”
Health literacy has historically been 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.” The definition has been expanded to include both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy.
Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decision and actions for themselves and others.
Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
These newly revised definitions are important as they emphasize a person’s ability to use the health information, to make well-informed decision, and incorporates a public health perspective by acknowledging that organizations also have a responsibility to address health literacy. According to the National Center for Education health literacy is suboptimal in the United States. Furthermore, health literacy is lower for Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Multiracial adult populations compared to White and Asian/Pacific Islanders.
Healthy People 2030 has six objectives related to health literacy which include:
- Increase the proportion of adults whose health care provider checked their understanding. People who don’t understand health information are likely to get preventative health care and are more likely to have health problems. It is important that healthcare providers check for understanding (i.e., instructions for care) by asking them to describe how they’ll follow instructions in their own words. In 2019, an estimated 25.6% of health care providers checked their understanding. The target for 2030 is 32.2%.
- Decrease the proportion of adults who report poor communication with their healthcare provider. Poor communication among patient/client and provider has detrimental impacts on the patient’s health. Good communication can lead to better prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease. In 2019, 9% of adults reported poor communication with their healthcare provider. The goal for 2030 is to reduce this to 8%.
- Increase the proportion of adults whose healthcare providers involved them in decisions as much as they wanted. Shared decision-making leads to higher patient satisfaction and better health outcomes. Collaborative relationships are a core component of shared-decision making. In 2020, 57.2% of adults reported that their healthcare provider included them in making decisions about their health as much as they wanted. The goal for 2030 is 62.7%.
- Increase the proportion of people who say their online medical record is easy to understand. This objective is under-development and doesn’t currently have baseline data.
- Increase the proportion of adults with limited English proficiency who say their providers explain things clearly. This objective is under-development and doesn’t currently have baseline data.
- Increase the health literacy of the population. This objective has research status and doesn’t currently have baseline data.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Health Literacy Action Plan. This is a blueprint for efforts to improve health literacy across all sectors involved in health information and services. The plan outlines three primary goals.
Goal 1: Develop and Share Health and Safety Information That Is Accurate, Accessible, and Actionable. In our information-rich world, the CDC is committed to providing information that is accessible, accurate, and actionable.
Goal 2: Integrate Clear Communication and Health Literacy into Public Health Planning, Funding, Policy Development, Research, and Evaluation. The CDC acknowledges that they are a key source of public health information, and they are committed to organizational health literacy through funding, policy development, research, evaluation, interaction with grantees, funded partners, and key decision makers.
Goal 3: Incorporate Accurate, Standards-Based, and Developmentally Appropriate Health and Science Information and Curricula in Educational Settings from Preschool through University Levels. The CDC has developed two strategies to help ensure children and adolescents develop health literacy skills through health and education professionals.
3 Ways You Can Take Action!
- Evaluate and Improve Your Organizations Health Literacy:
Review: Examine your organization’s priorities and programs and ask how attention to health literacy could improve the organization’s services and outcomes.
Choose: Identify the goals and strategies in the plans that are most relevant to your programs.
Try: Plan and implement strategies.
Evaluate: Assess the effectiveness of chosen strategies.
- Learn More About Health Literacy:
Check out and read at least 2 articles from the Office of Minority Health’s 2023 Reading List.
Listen to Season 3 of CASAT Conversations: The Long Road to Health Equity.
- Provide Resources for Clients
Be More Engaged in Your Healthcare. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2020.
Health Insurance Basics: Key Words and Phrases You Need to Know. FamiliesUSA.org, 2016. English version/Spanish version
How do I? Answers to Individuals’ Common Questions. HealthIT.gov, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, May 10). CDC’s Health Literacy Action Plan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/planact/cdcplan.html
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). Health Literacy in Healthy People 2030. Health Literacy in Healthy People 2030 – Healthy People 2030. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://health.gov/healthypeople/priority-areas/health-literacy-healthy-people-2030
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2023). National Minority Health Month: Better Health Through Better Understanding . HHS Office of Minority Health. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/nmhm/
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