The goal of the California Health Literacy Initiative is to inform and partner with individuals and organizations to craft collective, lasting solutions which will positively impact the health and well-being of individuals with low-literacy skills, their families, and their communities. This plan for California will serve as a groundbreaking, national model for health literacy; currently, no statewide efforts of such complexity are being undertaken.
The California Health Literacy Initiative was launched by California Literacy in 2003. Its goal was to inform and partner with individuals and organizations to craft collective and lasting solutions that would positively impact the health and well-being of individuals with low literacy skills, their families, and their communities. Literacyworks is now continuing and expanding the original goal of the Initiative through increasing collaborative partnerships and developing understandable health literacy material.
What is Health Literacy?
Health Literacy is the ability to read, understand and act upon health information. $73 billion is the estimated annual cost of low literacy skills in the form of longer hospital stays, emergency room visits, increased doctor visits, and increased medication ( National Academy on an Aging Society). Health Literacy represents the cognitive and social skills, which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand, and use information in ways, which promote and maintain good health.
Adult learners face the same health care challenges as fully literate adults establishing a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, understanding new diseases and new therapies. For adult learners, the additional struggle is to do all of these tasks while lacking the necessary skills to find and understand health-related information. As a result, they often fail to engage in early detection and preventive health care practices and have difficulty understanding and complying with instructions from their doctors. A recent study found that 42 percent of adult respondents did not understand the instructions "take this medicine on an empty stomach." Complicating matters is the fact that most health promotion materials are written at the tenth grade reading level and the average adult in California reads at the seventh grade reading level.
Nearly 70 percent of the immigrants who have resided in California for ten or fewer years are functionally illiterate. To be functionally illiterate means to be unable to read the label on a medicine bottle, complete a medical history form, or find an intersection on a street map. Health Literacy empowers individuals and communities by improving their ability to access health information and their capacity to use it effectively.
The Health Literacy Resource Center is a central resource for health literacy information and training. It is a one-stop-shop for Web-based health literacy resources. The information is provided for literacy practitioners, health care professionals, adult literacy and ESL students, and anyone who seeks a clear understanding of health information.