Comfort and care. That’s what you want from a healthcare provider. But that’s not what you feel when you’re confused, overwhelmed, and baffled by healthcare jargon. This is a widespread issue in the United States. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimates only 12 percent of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy. That leaves 88 percent of the population lacking—even those of us with a strong command of the English language.
Imagine how much harder it is for those who struggle to understand, speak, and read English. The language barrier creates serious obstacles to receiving appropriate care.
To help some of our most vulnerable neighbors get the medical care they need, Literacy DuPage has joined forces with local healthcare organizations, including AMITA Health and the DuPage County Health Department.
Reaching out through health partners
“DuPage County residents have access to high-quality, leading-edge healthcare services,” said Karen J. Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department. But to benefit from those services and make well-informed medical decisions, “all residents must have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information,” she said.
The health department and AMITA’s caseworkers or social workers are a crucial link in reaching reach DuPage residents who need help. When they meet patients struggling with health literacy, they hand those patients a simple card that points the way to Literacy DuPage.
“Health literacy paves the way to living healthier and happier lives,” said Sendy Soto, AMITA’s director of Community Benefit & Advocacy. “We appreciate partners like Literacy DuPage who are dedicated to deepening the relationship between patients and providers.”
AMITA and the health department also display our information at various locations throughout their facilities, such as in brochure racks at registration and information desks, pharmacies, and in some waiting areas.
How Literacy DuPage approaches health literacy
The referral cards lead most people to contact Literacy DuPage by phone or text message. Once we hear from a potential learner, we assign a volunteer tutor to work one-on-one with that individual. Tutors are prepared to work with learners on a variety of health literacy goals, at whatever English-proficiency level is appropriate. While some learners focus on basics like contacting a doctor’s office or calling 911, others tackle more complex challenges like understanding nutrition labels and following basic health guidelines.
No matter what the learner’s goals, Literacy DuPage tutors are dedicated to helping them succeed.
To reach as many people as possible, Literacy DuPage applied for and received a grant from the Community Memorial Foundation. This funding is helping us:
- Provide health literacy workshops throughout the year.
- Impart even more health-related content to our tutors in training, so they’re prepared for just about any health-literacy challenge a learner may present.
- Deepen our relationships with healthcare partners. In addition to providing referral materials, we’re holding informational sessions that prepare healthcare employees to identify and connect us with patients who need literacy tutoring.
“It is humbling and rewarding to work with others to genuinely help people from the heart to empower them to make their lives and others’ better,” said Kimberly Whiteleather, CPhT, a Creation Health Coach and Spiritual Ambassador at Bolingbrook and GlenOaks Hospital.
“We look forward to even more opportunities to come in the upcoming year!” said Ayala. We do too, and we’re so thankful for the grant and for the assistance of our partners!