Utah State Library Joins the Utah Health Literacy Coalition

by Katie Larsen

The Utah State library has accepted an invitation to join the Utah Health Literacy Coalition (UHLC). UHLC is an interagency coalition that includes representatives from the University of Utah, Network of the National Library of Medicine, Salt Lake County Library, local public health centers, and others. This group of individuals are teaming up to work toward one BIG goal, to improve the health literacy of Utahns. 

“Health Literacy” refers to the skills needed to access reliable health information, understand health information, and use health information to participate in the health care system. Each of us need certain skills to make informed decisions about our health.

Health Literacy Skills:

  • Reading and understanding text
  • Numeracy and quantitative skills (for measuring blood glucose, following prescriptions, interpreting labels, understanding costs)
  • Basic knowledge of medical terminology 
  • Ability to locate and interpret information in documents
  • Basic knowledge of medical terminology
  • Ability to communicate with health care providers effectively
  • Computer skills (health care portals, doctor recommended websites for chronic diseases)
  • Basic understanding of the health care system

To make the work focused and organized, the coalition formed into three teams: Networking, Advocacy & Policy, and Training & Resource Development. These focus areas provide a framework for organizing each group’s ideas and goals. 

The Policy and Advocacy workgroup led by Amber Hall, Senior Operations Project Manager for Patient Education at the U of U, plans to advocate for the Department of Health and Human Service’s language policy to be implemented state-wide. They will also design new policies and procedures that make health literacy resources more accessible to providers, patients, and educators.

The Networking workgroup led by Ayan Nor, Health Educator, Salt Lake County Health Department, plans to promote and publicize the work the coalition is doing via the web and by making connections with potential partner organizations in Utah.

The Training and Resources Development workgroup led by Joelle Fierro, Readability & Comprehension Specialist, at Utah Department of Health and Human Services, will increase health literacy certifications (CHIS, IHLA, etc.) among professionals through promotion and even funding. CHIS certification can be obtained by anyone for free due to funding provided by the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM).

With this funding, NNLM has made it possible for every Utah library to have at least one CHIS certified staff member. You can help UHLC reach this goal, and provide certified health literacy services to your community.

Want to join UHLC? Contact Katie Larsen at katielarsen@utah.gov.

Learn more about the CHIS certification here

Learn more about health literacy here.

Berkman, N. D., Sheridan, S. L., Donahue, K. E., Halpern, D. J., & Crotty, K. (2011). Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Annals of internal medicine155(2), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-155-2-201107190-00005

Coughlin, S. S., Vernon, M., Hatzigeorgiou, C., & George, V. (2020). Health Literacy, Social Determinants of Health, and Disease Prevention and Control. Journal of environment and health sciences6(1), 3061.