As part of its efforts to carry out this mission, ODPHP has developed Healthfinder.gov, a website that provides vetted, easily accessed information to the general public. According to Slade-Sawyer, ODPHP has conducted research for the past four years on how to better address the health information needs of populations with limited health literacy. Healthfinder.gov is one example of ODPHP’s attempts to translate research into information that is easy-to-use for vulnerable populations.
Another example is the incorporation of health literacy principles into the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines, a booklet that describes the types and amounts of physical activity required for health benefits (http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/). Slade-Sawyer pointed out that by examining the public’s needs and desires it is possible to identify multiple opportunities for the advancement of health literacy. Surveys have shown that individuals want to obtain their health care and prevention information from their own health care providers, but are not currently given advice they can understand and act on. In order to deliver prevention information that is easy to understand and use, the National Action Plan calls on clinicians and health care providers to make clear communication with patients a fundamental skill and priority.
There are additional overlooked opportunities in the education system to prepare people to be smart consumers of health information and services, Slade-Sawyer said. Currently, about one-third of the American adult population struggles to understand health information because of literacy barriers, while two-thirds struggle with the complexity of the health care system. The National Action Plan calls on the education system to ensure that children graduate with the health literacy skills that will help them lead healthy adult lives.
The National Action Plan also addresses the research opportunities at the intersections of prevention and health literacy by identifying research on factors of health literacy and by evaluating interventions. Health literacy, which involves the ability to seek out and interpret health information, is crucial to primary and secondary prevention efforts. The purposes of providing health information to people include helping them to pay attention to recommendations, teaching them about risk factors, and making it more likely that they will obtain appropriate health screenings and take other preventive measures such as getting a flu shot. It is critical to carry out research on which aspects of prevention people pay attention to and on what factors, including health literacy, affect their attention. Research can also reveal the factors that determine how prevention information and services are organized and used.
Slade-Sawyer concluded her presentation with an invitation to attend the Health Literacy Annual Research Conference which is held annu-