Wisconsin Promising Practices Program: English for Health

This report describes a health literacy education program that is suitable for English language and adult literacy learners.

Jeff Burkhart
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Literacy Network of Dane County
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

The Wisconsin Promising Practices (WPP) program is one component of the What Works: Reducing Health Disparities in Wisconsin Communities project. “What Works” is a three-year, collaborative project between the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Minority Health Program and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program. The overarching goal of the What Works project is to identify and disseminate both evidence-based practices from the research literature and promising practices being implemented in Wisconsin communities that have the potential to improve minority health and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities in our state. This Program Summary provides documentation of a promising Wisconsin program.

What the experts say

Readers might think of this resource in two ways. First, as a clear and concise summary of the rationale, implementation, and outcomes of a healthcare provider and literacy partnership effort to decrease health disparities in the community by combining English language literacy instruction and health literacy activities. The project fosters a more “critical” definition of health literacy by combining skills development, important opportunities to practice with authentic texts in authentic settings, while seeing the students as assets to their families and community.

Second, this resource provides a model for a concise but detailed summary format for promising practices. The project provides skills development and important opportunities to practice while seeing the students as assets to their families and community.

This report shows how a health literacy program delivered to ESOL students can measurably improve their health literacy knowledge and skills. The report describes a very well thought-out program, which can serve as a model for any adult education program that wants to address health literacy. Aside from the curriculum, which teaches ESOL in the context of health literacy, there are many components that allow the learners to communicate with health professionals and practice some of the skills they are learning. The program culminates in a “Mock Clinic”, where students interact with volunteer medical and pharmacy students in a health center setting and practice things like filling out forms, making appointments, talking with doctors about health issues, and filling prescriptions. This presents an exciting and unique model of taking instruction to the next level, and helping learners to use their new skills for meaningful life changes.

The report includes data from the evaluations, showing the improvements students made in both pre/post testing scores and skills used in the Mock Clinic. This kind of data, combined with the partnerships described, can be very useful in getting funding for collaborative projects, and forming partnerships with healthcare agencies. The kind of skills taught in this program are those that can save the healthcare system money by teaching some of the more challenged community members how to stay healthier and how to use the health system more appropriately. (For example, they learn the importance of seeing a doctor regularly, using urgent services if needed and avoiding unnecessary use of the most expensive services like the Emergency room.)


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