WIA Community Conversations Transcripts - Health Literacy

WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Health Literacy

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Subject: WIA and Health Literacy
From: Jennifer Rho
Date: January 14, 2010

Dear Dr. Dan-Messier:

Funding from the Workforce Investment Act related to improving health literacy
would very positively impact our local adult literacy program and larger
community. As a physician in Rochester, MN who made the leap from academic
medicine to setting up a student health service at our local adult and family
literacy program 5 years ago, I have seen first hand the effects of low health
literacy. In addition to contributing to challenges in accessing health care
(independent of insurance status) and preventing individuals and their families
from being as healthy as they would like, low health literacy is a significant
factor in preventing employment among the 3000 adult learners our program
annually serves. In our community, Mayo Clinic employs roughly 1/3 of the
100,000 residents. Additionally, with many other jobs in our community helping
to support this large institution, adequate health literacy is a must for many
of the employment opportunities in our community.

The program manager of our large and well-established adult and family literacy
program has long-recognized the link between improving health literacy and
finding employment for the adult learners served by our program. This has led
to multiple outreach efforts to link with health care organizations, medical
and nursing training programs, and other community organizations to help
improve health literacy among the learners so that they can compete in the job
market as well as improve their personal health and the health of their
families. One of the vocational programs we have set up is a pre-nursing
assistant class taught by one of our teachers with the assistance of nursing
students participating in a year long service-learning project at our adult
literacy program. While the initial goal was to allow adult learners to go on
to successfully complete a nursing assistant program at our local community
college, many learners have successfully passed the nursing assistant
certification directly from our pre-nursing assistant class. We have also
worked with the language department at a local health care organization to
train a medical interpreter intern, who was later hired on by the organization.
We would like to use this as a model to train more individuals, but have not
had funding. Additionally, we are currently performing a pilot in which adult
literacy teachers and learners evaluate patient education materials from a
local health care organization in hopes of harnessing the expertise that exists
within the adult literacy community and improving health literacy of the
learners and health care organization in the process. We hope that this leads
to a potential paid consulting role for adult learners in evaluating and
developing patient education materials. We have a number of other health
literacy activities we’ve developed as well, which are not specifically focused
on employment.

We would love the opportunity to offer more vocational programs to prepare our
learners for jobs in the health care field, especially as our health system
struggles to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse community. However,
there seems to be very little funding available to help us with our efforts.
The health literacy programs that we have developed have been largely unfunded
and supported by volunteers, including my position. Therefore, the health
literacy activities have largely been “extra” things that we offer to select
learners as we are able, but these activities have not been a main thrust of
the overall adult literacy program. This has been unfortunate, because we know
that health professions training programs require a high level of health
literacy at matriculation. With the current proposed national health care
reforms, we anticipate that health care job openings will continue to expand.
But until we can improve health literacy among our adult learners, few will be
qualified for these jobs or to even enter their respective training programs.

Our very savvy program manager has been adept at finding grants to keep the
school doors open, although cuts among teacher hours seem to come monthly due
to shrinking education budgets. However, we know that if there were funding
through the Workforce Investment Act to support our health literacy programs
and prepare learners for jobs in the health care field, it would provide much
needed services to our learners and our community. I would strongly encourage
reauthorization of this program.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Rho, MD, MPH

Hawthorne Education Center

Rochester, MN


Subject: Health Literacy Questions
From: Sandra Smith
Date: January 11, 2010

I
have trained home visitors (paraprofessionals, nurses, social workers)
 who work to promote maternal and child health to use a 3-question screen
(Bennett 2003) to identify  parents likely to have difficulty with basic
literacy,  to refer to literacy enhancing services in their communities,
and to support parents’ participation.  The visitors report this is easy
for them and effective with many parents; except in communities where services
are lacking, inconvenient or with waiting lists. Transportation and child
care are issues for parents.

Sandra Smith,
MPH PhD