Improving the Health Literacy of Hospitals: A Collaborative Guide for Literacy Organizations

This report details a project in which adult education students were trained to provide feedback to help hospitals improve their practices. A step-by-step process is provided enabling other adult education programs to replicate this project.

Sue Gaard
Paul Smith,
Michele Erikson
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Wisconsin Literacy, Inc.
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

Improving the Health Literacy of Hospitals describes a project conducted in Madison, Wisconsin that prepared 15 adult students enrolled in a general equivalency diploma (high school graduation equivalency) program to be consultants at a hospital to improve the hospital’s health literacy environment. A student and hospital team independently evaluated a patient admission agreement, pain management and advanced directive patient information documents, and conducted a way-finding navigation exercise in the hospital. Students provided specific feedback about documents and hospital signage to improve understandability. Includes resources and support required for success, steps on how to begin a program, and lessons learned.

What the experts say

This is an excellent quick guide for literacy programs who want to take an active role in their health community and promote their students as valuable assets. It describes how they can create a partnership with a local health center or hospital, and implement a specific mutually beneficial project. It gives the background information on why it’s important, and takes you step-by-step through the process, while still allowing for creativity and alignment with the goals of the partners involved.

This short publication is directed toward literacy organizations. It makes a good first read for literacy administrators and teachers interested in promoting health literacy through a collaboration with local healthcare providers because it describes a fairly complex activity in straightforward, and doable steps. It describes an appealing learning activity for teachers and students using authentic experiences that value the input of adult learners as advisors/consultants in the process of making a local healthcare environment more accessible to the community.

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