Content strategist Jennie Kim lays out the three components of a winning content strategy and...
Content of Care
Yet, even as President Obama’s historic health reform bill dominates the headlines, health literacy policymaking remains elusive. Introduced in December 2007 as “a bill to ensure that all Americans have basic health literacy skills to function effectively as patients and healthcare consumers,” the bipartisan National Health Literacy Act, despite the endorsement of leading organizations such as AARP, the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, did not survive committee review.9
“Awareness is growing, but we are not where we should be,” says Kantor, adding that, “the onus is on the healthcare industry to take leadership.” Among other barriers, she explains, are entrenched societal trends such as low literacy in the U.S., a lack of infrastructure to defuse cultural barriers, the pervasive use of medical jargon in health communications and the hard-to-measure ROI of health literacy. However, there is progress to report, as some organizations are rewriting their approach to health communications.
A stark fact of U.S. health literacy: most Americans read at a fifth-grade level, while most healthcare information is written at a 10th-grade level.10 “This is yet another compelling reason for providers to pay attention to the materials they create,” says Kantor, originally a long-term healthcare administrator who transitioned into healthcare PR and communications before founding HLI in 2006. Versed in the medical vernacular from her media relations work with the National Institutes of Health, AHIP and healthcare IT companies—who showed Kantor how technology simplifies business—she formally became involved with health literacy when Pfizer approached her to help promote the problem as a public health issue.
While Pfizer remains a leading proponent to this day through its Clear Health Communication Initiative, Kantor was not convinced of the existing industry approaches. “I did not see much efficiency in the health literacy industry and certainly no tools to streamline the process,” she recalls. Her answer was to partner with health literacy and health IT experts to found HLI with a focus on advocacy and creating tools to enhance health literacy. In addition to offering training, presentations and resource guides, HLI’s Health Literacy Advisor software product is helping players across the industry to streamline their communications.