Guest post: Carol Gabler on health literacy

We know that there are many facets to family literacy, and one of those is health literacy. But what exactly is health literacy? It’s the ability to understand information about your health so you can make wise healthcare decisions. Carol Gabler of Wisconsin Literacy is a longtime advocate for family literacy. In this special guest post, Carol shares how Wisconsin is approaching health literacy.

Did you know? Over one-third of the U.S. population cannot:

  • Use a chart to know when their children need vaccinations.
  • Use a graph to determine a healthy weight range.
  • Read a label so that they don’t take anything that could interact with the over-the-counter medications.

Creating awareness is the first step to improving health literacy in Wisconsin. A taskforce of educators, healthcare providers and community members have begun working under Wisconsin Literacy Inc.

One way we are creating awareness is through brochures, and we’re getting family literacy programs involved. Family literacy participants from the Eau Claire Family Literacy Program have posed for some of the pictures in the awareness brochures that have been created. One is written at a fourth-grade level to help families communicate with their healthcare providers. The second one is written for a general audience.

It was fascinating to see the interest in the topic when we went to the family literacy site to take pictures. We thought two families would be involved. But when they heard we were talking about health literacy and met the doctor, the two families left and came back with the rest of the class. They thought it was so important they should all be involved!

It is our hope to work with families in Wisconsin so they will become empowered to be good advocates for their family’s health. We invite you to use our health literacy brochure to create awareness in your family literacy program.

We realize that knowledge is power for patients and that the ability to communicate with healthcare professionals and navigate a complicated system will result in more effective healthcare decisions. It is our duty to be informed and to work with each other to accomplish this goal.

Feel free to contact  me for more information about what we are doing in Wisconsin or how you can help improve health literacy in your program or community.

— Carol Gabler