OKC Metro Literacy Coalition Member Profile:
Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign
What’s this? A health collaborative that belongs to a literacy coalition?
What is Health Equity and how is that a literacy concern?
The Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign (OHEC) addresses inequities that are a result of social determinants of health – life enhancing resources such as transportation, housing and literacy. OHEC provides the opportunity for groups to build on the strengths, assets, and resources of a community, and work toward reducing the health inequities of under-served populations in Oklahoma.
In 2011, Marisa New, the manager of Health Equity and Resource Opportunities (HERO) Division, Partnerships for Health Improvement, in the Oklahoma State Department of Health, called looking to include literacy in their policy and programming work. After some conversation, Leslie Gelders of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries joined us. Together, we formulated a Literacy and Health Equity Position Statement. The OHEC reviewed, vetted and adopted the position after several educational presentations. (You can see that position statement, by visiting the Oklahoma Health Literacy Clearinghouse at www.okhealthequity.org).
Ultimately, more representatives from organizations such as transportation, housing, public health, insurance, the faith-based community, and many health partners formed a standing committee from which the first statewide Health Literacy Summit was created in 2012. The mission of that first summit was to educate those in health professions, insurance companies, social services and literacy organizations about the strong connection between health outcomes and literacy. Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization and less use of preventive services. A second Health Literacy Summit was held in 2014 as well as a Faith-Based Health and Literacy Conference.
This important work continues so individuals at low levels of literacy, including those who do not speak English, can:
- Communicate with health professionals
- Navigate the healthcare system
- Understand self-care and chronic-disease management
- Obtain and process basic health information
The primary responsibility for improving health literacy lies with health professionals in both healthcare and public health. Adult educators can be productive partners in reaching adults with limited literacy skills. We must work together to ensure that health information and services can be understood and used by all Oklahomans. We must engage in skill building with healthcare patients and health and literacy professionals.
Participants in the 2014 Health Literacy Summit (left to right) include: Melissa Muncy Struttman, Creek County Literacy Program; Jesse Cradduck, pastor, Marantha Ministry of Hope; Dr. Andrew Pleasant, Canyon Ranch Institute; Marisa New, Oklahoma State Department of Health.