Highlights of NIH Health Literacy Programs and Activities

The following selections describe health literacy programs and activities from a variety of NIH institutes, as submitted for the FY2015 HHS Biennial Report. For the full listing from NIH, please reference the pdf report.

Examples of opportunities for public input on health and/or safety information products

The NIMH Outreach Partnership Program sends its annual survey to its partners, which includes 55 Outreach Partner organizations representing all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These partners disseminate NIMH research findings and educational materials to the public throughout their states and local communities. A key survey objective was to gather information about NIMH’s health information products.

NCI’s Office of Advocacy Relations (OAR) engages cancer research advocates and serves as a link for advocate stakeholders to collaborate with NCI. OAR works with individual research advocates, local and national advocacy groups, and professional societies to ensure the collective patient perspective is included in NCI efforts to advance cancer research and improve patient outcomes.

The Honoring Health: Resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives electronic newsletter offers a link for subscribers to ask questions and provide feedback about the newsletter content and format. This resource is provided by the NIAMS, in partnership with the Trans-NIH American Indian/Alaska Native Health Communications and Information Work Group, the Indian Health Service, and the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging.

Health and safety information products created using health literacy or plain language tools

NIA updated its Age Page brochure series using NIH Plain Language tools. Updated items included brochures on the subjects of older drivers, pain, shingles, HIV/AIDS, elder abuse and skin topics.

NICHD created 12 new health-related infographics that incorporate federal plain language guidelines and other tenets of plain language communication as well as information design best practices. See https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/links/Pages/index.aspx#infographics for 2015 infographics.

NIH-OD (Office of Communications and Public Liaison) led a trans-NIH effort to develop a number of resources and tools focused on the topic of how to improve the quality and usefulness of information for the public about science and health. It is aimed at journalists and science writers, public information officers, and health advocacy organizations to help improve information for the public. Another goal is to expand public understanding of the nature of biomedical research and its role in health. In addition to a regular series of blogs, the site includes a checklist and guest blogs on communication topics such as the one from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID on communicating about risk and Zika.

Health and safety information products that have been tested with the intended audience

NEI revised using updated content and pilot tested the following booklet with the target audience: Cómo vivir con Baja Visión: Lo que usted debe saber (Living with Low Vision: What you should know Spanish booklet). Cómo ver bien durante toda la vida (See Well for a Lifetime), a new Spanish toolkit was also pilot tested with target audiences.

NIDDK pretested the “Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers” publication with adults living with diabetes to evaluate the publication’s design elements (e.g., images and layout) or content (e.g., language, key terms, and messages.)

NINR tested its Palliative Care: Conversations Matter® Campaign materials with members of the target audience in both English and Spanish language using online surveys, phone interviews, in-person individual interviews, and focus groups. Lessons learned from both methods inform plain language efforts throughout NINR.

Programs that empower people to be involved and active in their health

NHGRI’s Family Health History Day is a national health campaign urging individuals to learn about their family’s health history and share it with their healthcare providers as a means to prevent illness and disease from one generation to the next. NHGRI promotes the use of My Family Health Portrait as a means to do this.

NIDA’s annual National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week encourages teens and teen-influences across the country to learn about drug facts, drug prevention and treatment. Event participants receive free copies of up-to-date consumer guides and other materials, such as “Marijuana: Facts for Teens,” “Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know,” “Drugs: Shatter the Myths” and “Family Checkup.” Each year, NIDA also provides a new “National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge,” which encourages people to test their knowledge about drug abuse and addiction through an interactive 12-question quiz.

Brother, You’re On My Mind: Changing the National Dialogue Regarding Mental Health Among African American Men (BYOMM), a partnership between NIMHD and the Omega Psi-Phi Fraternity, Inc. to raise awareness about mental health challenges associated with stress and depression that affect African American men and their families.

Five FY2015 health literacy research grants

The next frontier in diabetes communication: Promoting health literacy in the era of secure messaging

It can be difficult for people with low-literacy to understand emailed health information from their clinicians. This project uses computational linguistics to explain how diabetes patients with a variety of health literacy levels interact with their clinicians via patient portals and creates a feedback tool to assist clinicians to better accommodate diabetes patients' communication needs. (Funded by the National Library of Medicine.)

Improving advance care planning by preparing diverse seniors for decision making

PREPARE is a Spanish- and English-language, web-based intervention that builds seniors’ health literacy during a life period known for chronic and serious illness. Participants who complete the project create a practical advance care planning guide that to help older adults and their loved ones make complex medical decisions when the need arises. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging.)

Using virtual counselors to overcome genetic literacy barriers: Project VICKY

This team developed a computer-based virtual counselor program (Project VICKY, Virtual Counselor for Knowing Your Family History) and is testing its validity to help low-literacy, underserved people create accurate family health histories in English and Spanish to collect family health information and generate usable reports regardless of literacy level to identify people at greatest risk for diseases and therefore benefit from preventive care. Current evidence suggests that people with lower-reading grade and computer-navigation abilities cannot complete current popular health-history tools. (Funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.)

Health literacy systems in the safety net: Lessons from complex care management

This project explains how healthcare providers accommodate previously uninsured and low income patients (newly insured through ACA), many of whom have low health literacy and multiple chronic conditions—while still providing high-quality care. (Funded by the National Institute on Nursing Research.)

Promoting safe use of pediatric liquid medications: A health literacy approach

This project identifies evidence-based strategies for labeling and dosing pediatric liquid medications to promote safe, appropriate use and to avoid medication errors and adverse events—for all parents regardless of literacy levels. This is an important pediatric issue, as over half of caregivers make errors when dosing liquid medications for children. (Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.)

This page last reviewed on December 6, 2016