October 30, 2014

State’s health departments work to boost “health literacy” with grant

A coalition of 18 health departments across Nebraska is sharing a near-half-million dollar federal grant to improve what’s known as health literacy.

What’s that? Deb Scholten is the head of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne explains:

“Health literacy is trying to simplify language or make signage more clear or address language barriers so that when we seek help from a physician, or a hospital or a nursing home, the information is understandable so we can make informed decisions,” she says.

Scholten says they’re working to make important medical information understandable to the masses.

She says most of the information is distributed at a fifth-grade reading level, trying to make it as simple as possible.

Scholten says care will improve if people have a better understanding of their condition and treatment. She says there are a lot of re-admissions of people who can’t follow the instructions for how they’re to take care of themselves after they leave the hospital.

“The hospitals really try to give you the discharge information but we also know that sometimes it’s too complicated,” Scholten says. “People don’t understand how to take their medicines correctly. We have some people that don’t understand how to take temperatures correctly.”

The agencies will get almost 500-thousand dollars for improving health literacy across the state. The grant to the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton