• Health Literacy Initiative

    The Health Literacy Committee at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center was created in response to emerging health literacy issues in the medical setting. The Health Literacy Committee resides within the Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's and consists of ten individuals who are committed to the improvement of health literacy locally in the Greater Cincinnati community, as well as at the national level.

    The National Health Education Standards define health literacy as the capacity of an individual to obtain, interpret and understand basic health information and services and the competence to use such information and services in ways that are health enhancing (e.g., ability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctors' directions and consent forms). The literature documents that 90 million Americans have difficulty understanding and acting on health information (IOM Report, 2004). Low health literacy is increasingly recognized as a problem that influences health care quality and cost since potentially life-threatening or harmful mistakes can happen when patients cannot read or understand the information provided.

  • The mission of the Health Literacy Committee at Cincinnati Children's is to provide education to minimize the impact of low health literacy and to move forward the field of health literacy by translating research findings to practical strategies that can be easily implemented.

    The vision is to create a health literate environment empowering Cincinnati Children's employees, patients and families with the ability to achieve their full health potential by using a common language and collaborative approach.

    To increase scientific understanding of the nature of health literacy and its relationship to healthy behaviors, illness prevention and treatment, chronic disease management, health disparities and medical adherence in order to improve health outcomes. The Health Literacy Committee will also promote:

    • The mission of Cincinnati Children’s Pursuing Perfection project
    • Standards of the The Joint Commission on patient safety
    • Goals of UC\21 Healthy Cincinnati
    • Collaboration with other institutions to catalyze progress toward the goals and targets set forth in Healthy People 2010, which is a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative

    In the United States, limited literacy skills are a stronger predictor of an individual's health status than age, income, employment status, or education level. Low health literacy has been found to result in poor health outcomes and added costs in the range of tens of billions of dollars annually. Moreover, due to increasing socio-cultural diversity in the Unites States population, the healthcare system has been in a state of crisis for some time. Cultural barriers, language differences (e.g., more than 300 different languages are spoken in the United States) and patients’ belief systems may create conflicts and misunderstanding often resulting in inferior medical care. The rationale motivating the Health Literacy Committee at Cincinnati Children's is illustrated by the following statistics on the impact of low health literacy. Low literate persons:

    • Get more of their health information from people surrounding them rather than health experts
    • Cannot read medication labels and sometimes take medication incorrectly; this applies to both prescription and over-the-counter medications
    • Have problems complying with medical directions
    • May have difficulty preparing formula properly and may improperly feed infants
    • May not understand safety precautions in the workplace
    • Have difficulty understanding written instructions for preventative care, self-care and follow-up care after an illness or injury
    • Have problems understanding appointment slips, informed consent forms, discharge information and oral instructions
    • Are less likely to request care early in the course of their illness