Exploring the changing landscape of health literacy, communication

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: COD Newsroom via FlickrHealth literacy, and its impact on health disparities, is gaining increased focus among health care providers and researchers. AHCJ hosts a webinar on the topic May 11.

Photo: COD Newsroom via FlickrHealth literacy, and its impact on health disparities, is gaining increased focus among health care providers and researchers. AHCJ hosts a webinar on the topic May 11.

A pinned tweet touting the latest superfood. A Facebook post on vaccines. Advice from a neighbor or friend. A poster or billboard. Google.

Health information is blasting out to the public in ways it has not before. And if you think it’s hard for health journalists to make sense of the maze of conflicting data or complex studies, imagine how difficult it can be for the public to understand health and make sound choices.

Enter health literacy.

On May 11, we’re offering a webcast with Harvard University’s Rima Rudd, M.S.P.H., Sc.D., a health literacy expert who  served on the original Institute of Medicine Health Literacy Committee.  A faculty member of Harvard’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences for more than 25 years, Rudd will offer a look at recent changes in approaches to health literacy and take members’ questions.

I’ve also added some resources in AHCJ’s social determinants of health care core topic area with an eye toward health literacy, and will add more in the weeks and months ahead.

Check out Boston University’s “tool box” of health literacy data and other resources, including ways to explore one’s understanding of various issues from diabetes to colon cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ also offers a good primer on the topic on the Health Resources and Services Administration website.

In the webcast, we’ll discuss how health care providers are – or are not – tackling health literacy issues as well as the ever-evolving impact of the Internet.

For example, in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at the role of online information on people’s understanding of health and well being.

Users tend to aggregate in communities of interest, which causes reinforcement and fosters confirmation bias, segregation, and polarization. This comes at the expense of the quality of the information and leads to proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust, and paranoia,” they wrote.

We’ll discuss that as well as the latest on health literacy and probe possible story ideas on May 11 – please join us.

Further reading:

Have an interesting resource on health literacy that others could use? Written your own interesting stories on the topic? Send them to me at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

4 thoughts on “Exploring the changing landscape of health literacy, communication

  1. Eileen Beal

    I know the webcast is on the 11th, but can’t figure out how to log in on that day. Is there a link?

    Be well/stay warm….Eileen

  2. Pia ChristensenPia Christensen

    A link to the webcast will appear on the page about 15 minutes before the webcast begins. I had inadvertently left that information on the page but have added it just now. Thanks for the reminder!

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