Building a Health Literate Community to Achieve Health Equity: Insights, Lessons Learned, and Next Steps

The importance of organizational health literacy is increasingly clear in the time of COVID-19 and widespread health disparities. It has been elevated by the new Healthy People 2030 health literacy definitions and its foundational principle that “Achieving health and well-being requires eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity, and attaining health literacy.”

Public health practice, health care, and community organizations have shared goals to achieve health literate communities, but practice implementation, and measurement on this topic, are still emerging. Best practice guidance is needed.

This panel will consider insights, lessons learned, and next steps from an Office of Minority Health-funded project building community health literacy to achieve health equity through improving organizational health literacy capacity and networks in Franklin County, OH. The project is a collaboration among public health departments, health care organizations, and diverse community organizations.

Panelists will give insights from real-world implementation experience in establishing a health literate community via an iterative quality improvement approach to organizational health literacy capacity-building, and leveraging and learning from emerging networking/social components to inform future practice.

We will start with an introduction by the Moderator, Dr. Tetine Sentell, Professor of Public Health at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa on the importance of community and organizational health literacy and the particular point of view of this project to build this sustainably through social networks and relationships.

The first presenter, Heather Pennington, the Community Health Initiatives Supervisor from Franklin County Public Health, the project lead agency, will provide a project overview from the public health perspective and why it is valuable to achieve organizational health literacy for equitable public health programming and for building health literate communities.

The second presenter, Dr. Mary Ann Abrams, the GME Quality Improvement Medical Director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will share details on why this is important from a health care organization perspective, drawing from deep experience in organizational health literacy practice and clinical practice management.

The third presenter will be Ms. Kara Saiki, from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa-based project evaluation team, who will consider insights, lessons learned, and next steps from evaluation of this sustainable organizational health literacy implementation in a community context.

We will conclude with a robust discussion on this topic in this case and as applied to other settings with the audience led by the moderator, starting from the importance of considering health literacy from an organizational, and community and social network context to achieve health equity.