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October is Health Literacy Month

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By Robert L. Herron and Jillian L. Rosandich |

October is Health Literacy Month. While not a new term or phrase, health literacy has been recently defined by SHAPE America as, “the ability to access, understand, appraise, apply and advocate for health information and services in order to maintain or enhance one’s own health and the health of others.” Being health literate is empowering and allows one to take control of their health.

Research has identified health literacy as an important measure that highlights one’s ability to understand concepts related to health and how to take action to improve their health, and the health of those around them, throughout life. Recognizing quality information is important in today’s society. Whether it involves making informed dietary choices, following public health guidelines during a pandemic, or creating a sustainable physical activity or exercise plan, taking quality information, and making it actionable within your life is invaluable. 

Health literacy features prominently in the new Healthy People 2030 guidelines.  Of note, Healthy People 2030 also promotes the needs for high Organizational Health Literacy.  Organizational Health Literacy is defined as, “the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”      

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) put forth Five Talking Points on Health Literacy that can help support someone who wishes to advocate for improved health literacy in and around their community.  The talking points are listed below, for your convenience. 

  1. Nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information when it is unfamiliar, complex, or jargon-filled.
  2. Limited health literacy costs the healthcare system money and results in higher than necessary morbidity and mortality.
  3. Health literacy can be improved if we practice clear communication strategies and techniques.
  4. Clear communication means using familiar concepts, words, numbers, and images presented in ways that make sense to the people who need the information.
  5. Testing information with the audience before it is released and asking for feedback are the best ways to know if we are communicating clearly. We need to test and ask for feedback every time information is released to the general public.

Increased internet access has made finding quality health information easier than ever before, although some sources are considered more reputable than others.

Tips for finding good information include looking for scientific, peer-reviewed articles; fact checking sources like health blogs; and reaching out to health or science professionals on social media platforms for their thoughts on topics in the news. For those working in health education, please explore the tools below to help you better serve those around you.

SHAPE America – Education Resources

CDC – Health Literacy Resources

Robert L. Herron is a faculty member at the United States Sports Academy.  Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). rherron@ussa.edu

Jillian Rosandich is a lecturer at the United States Sports Academy. She earned her Master of Sports Science degree in sports management from the Academy and a bachelor’s degree in film and media arts from the University of New Orleans. Rosandich has significant working experience abroad, including developing, coordinating, and delivering international sport education programs in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Bahrain, Finland, Colombia, and the Caribbean. Her areas of interest in research are diversity, equity, and inclusion in sport and media. jrosandich@ussa.edu

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