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Health Literacy

Health Literacy is an individual and family issue, a community responsibility, and a national challenge.

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The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, is committed to improving health outcomes and access to care for people living in poverty. The foundation views health as vital to supporting families, building stable neighborhoods and reducing poverty. In our strategic vision, the foundation focuses on improving our community’s capacity to eliminate health disparities, exemplified by health outcomes that are significantly worse for vulnerable populations.

In our view, health literacy lies at the intersection of many of socioeconomic conditions, from gaps in education to the complexity of the health care system. It encompasses an individual’s ability to find, understand, evaluate, and use health information, to engage the services needed to make appropriate health decisions and navigate the health care system.

Since 2007, we have led a collaboration that has invested significant funds in planning and demonstration grants, convening’s and evaluation to advance health literacy in Cuyahoga County by enhancing the capacity of providers and organizations to implement or adapt health literacy practices into effective programs and strategies. I wish to thank the Cleveland Foundation for their collaboration and generous support to this important initiative.

The 5-year investment in health literacy has led to many discoveries for the foundation and contributions to the field. Grantee partners across clinical and community-based practices have executed an assortment of strategies to increase health literacy and impact patient outcomes — cutting across disease states, socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. The assortment of new findings has occurred amid the constant evolution of the health care system.

With the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, greater emphasis is placed on prevention, access, readmissions, health equity and quality of care — particularly among a population of new users of the healthcare system.

So while our learning has been valuable, we find ourselves asking new questions and re-evaluating the complexities that a patient faces within a healthcare delivery system, as the scope and scale of health literacy becomes greater with the rollout of current healthcare system changes.

We are pleased to share our perspective on health literacy — the issue, the impact on patients and health outcomes, the cost and our personal experience with addressing health literacy locally. We hope our lessons learned, experiences and success will encourage others to join in the conversation, seek innovative partnerships, collaborations and stimulate further action within communities, organizations and the healthcare sector to continue to understand the role of health literacy in positive health outcomes.

Susanna H. Krey
Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Read the full document: Health Literacy: A Report from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, which was published in 2012.

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