‘Engage for Health’ During Health Literacy Month

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HAP and hospitals offer community literacy programs to help Pennsylvanians better understand their care

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“Health care can be complex and feel intimidating at times, and health care providers are working to improve health literacy to help change that,” said HAP President and CEO Andy Carter.

When patients and their families have an understanding of, and are engaged in, their health care and care plans, their care outcomes tend to be better, and they have a more positive health care experience, according to national and international research.

During October, Health Literacy Month, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) encourages you to evaluate your own level of health literacy and learn more about what you can do to better understand your care.

To help with this, HAP developed the community-focused health literacy program, Engage for Health. Pennsylvania hospitals and libraries work collaboratively to offer this program to educate the public about health terms and questions to ask their health care providers.

“It’s only natural that hospitals and libraries—two trusted community cornerstones dedicated to providing important information and education—would come together to help Pennsylvanians gain a better understanding of their health,” said HAP President and CEO Andy Carter.

HAP has worked with Pennsylvania hospitals to share successful best practices for health care providers related to health literacy. An effective strategy is the “teach-back method,” which involves a health care provider asking the patient to repeat back what they have shared with them to ensure the patient understands care plans.

Engage for Health supports this approach, but focuses on the other end of the health care interaction: health care consumers. The program helps individuals feel empowered to ask questions and repeat back what they have heard to ensure full understanding.

Engage for Health programs are held at libraries and hospitals across the state, and offer a role-playing exercise featuring a volunteer “patient” and trained clinician, recreating a doctor’s office visit. Participants are able to observe this interaction and add their input and ask questions.

Key tips shared during the program to help consumers or patients take a more active role in their health include:

  •     Take a friend or family member with you
  •     Make sure you understand what your doctor or nurse says by repeating back what you heard
  •     Write things down before and during your visit; this will help you determine any questions
  •     Ask questions, such as, “What is this test for? Why do I need this treatment? How often do I need to take that medication?”

“Health care can be complex and feel intimidating at times, and health care providers are working to improve health literacy to help change that,” said Carter. “But no one knows you better than you, so to fully understand your care, patients should feel empowered to ask questions and feel comfortable with their care plans.”

This successful Pennsylvania model has been gaining national attention, and other states have shown interest in offering the program in their hospitals and libraries.

To find an Engage for Health or other health literacy program near you, contact your local hospital or library. You also can visit the consumer section of HAP’s website and HAP’s statewide community, Healthy Me PA, for tips to help you understand health care terms and determine effective ways to ask your doctor important questions about your health.

ABOUT HAP: HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 240 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve. Additional information about HAP is available online at http://www.haponline.org.

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Katie Byrnes (for statewide inquiries)

Priscilla Koutsouradis (for southeastern PA inquiries)
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