Health Literacy Home


Welcome – We’re glad you’re here!

AgeWellLogo_FinalDo you work with or care for older adults? Do you see signs of low health literacy in the people you work with?

Perhaps you’re looking for health information for yourself – you’re welcome too! You’ll find lots of helpful health care related information on our site.

Signs of low health Literacy may be:

  • Frequent hospital admissions
  • Poor management of chronic health conditions
  • Frequent medication troubles
  • Frustration with their doctors and nurses

Low health literacy occurs when there is a gap between the knowledge and skills of the patient and the demands of today’s healthcare system. There are tools you can use to help close that gap.

We invite caregivers, church groups, public libraries, senior centers, and any other person or organization working with older adults to take a look at the resources we’ve gathered. Your relationship with the people you work with can be great tool to closing the health literacy gap.

We’re going to focus on these areas:

  • Health Literacy Basics: What do we mean by health literacy? Why are older adults more at risk than others?
  • Communicating with Health Professionals: Help older adults learn to clearly describe their symptoms and concerns, and how to get the answers they need.
  • Medication Safety: Keeping track of multiple medicines with varying dosing schedules can be frustrating and confusing. These organizational tips and tools can help.
  • Finding Reliable Health Information: Many people use the Internet to find health information. You can help older adults find the best information. But many older adults do not use the Internet – and many people with low health literacy may not use printed information at all. How can you help?
  • Health Insurance Literacy: Understanding health insurance, including Medicare, is very difficult. Use these tools to help.
  • Teach-back: Teach-back is a tool you should be using in almost every health communication encounter. By asking the listener to explain back to you the information you’ve provided, you can assess and verify understanding.
  • Measuring Success: Some organizations may want to formally measure how well they respond to health literacy issues. Here are resources to help.

History of this Initiative

Growing regional awareness about the health needs of older Pennsylvanians led The Foundation for Enhancing Communities to launch an initiative exploring ways the issue is affecting Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, Perry, and Northern York Counties. More than 50 community and state leaders across the fields of health and human services were brought together for three facilitated meetings to discuss critical challenges and opportunities to support the health of older adults. In 2013, a formal Task Force on Aging and Health Disparities was formed to focus on several priorities, including health literacy, abuse and neglect, advocacy, and accessibility. Throughout the past year the task force has met regularly to examine ways of building the health literacy capacity of local organizations serving seniors.

Hospitals and health systems have begun to make important strides in addressing health literacy needs; however, other communitybased organizations serving seniors in non-clinical settings still have limited awareness of health literacy strategies and tools. This website toolkit was designed with those community–based organizations in mind.

Task Force on Aging & Health Disparities Current Participants

  • Chair, Bob Haigh, Consultant & Community Volunteer, Pennsylvania Psychiatric Leadership Council
  • Sandy Abnett, The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
  • Terry Barley, Deputy Secretary of Aging, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Dara Bourassa, PhD, LSW, Associate Professor and Director of Gerontology Department of Social Work and Gerontology, Shippensburg University
  • Gil Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Hospice of Central PA
  • Julia Bucher, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, The Stabler Department of Nursing, York College of PA
  • Jill Buhrman, Director of Services, Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging
  • Jonelle Prether Darr, Executive Director, Cumberland County Library System
  • Annamarie Fazzolari, MHA, Development Coordinator, Homeland Hospice
  • Cindy Hipszer, RN, MSN, CCRN, CNML, Project Manager, Hospital Engagement Network, The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
  • Helen Houpt, MSLS, AHIP
  • Jim Ingolio, Director of Mission Advancement, Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania
  • Sharon Kelly, Director, Mission Integration, Pinnacle Health System
  • Rebecca May–Cole, Executive Director, PA Behavioral Health & Aging Coalition
  • Martha McGraw, Senior Housing Services Representative, PA Housing Finance Agency
  • Gloria Merrick, Executive Director, Latino Hispanic American Community Center
  • Dee Miller, Member, Agency on Aging Advisory Board, Senior Representative to Task Force
  • Becca Raley, Executive Director, Partnership for Better Health
  • Lori Clark Robinson, Senior Community Affairs Specialist, Highmark Blue Shield
  • Gary Scicchitano, Community Volunteer
  • Katie Shradley, MS, RN, CVRN–BC, Patient Care Manager, Patient Engagement, PinnacleHealth System
  • Barbara Terry, Community Consultant, PinnacleHealth System
  • Tina Nixon, Vice President for Mission Effectiveness & Chief Diversity Officer, PinnacleHealth
  • Susan Wokulich, Director, Allocations & Agency Relations, United Way of the Capital Region

TFEC Staff

  • Janice R. Black, President and CEO
  • Jennifer Doyle, Director of Development & Community Investment
  • Jennifer Kuntch, Communications Officer
  • Jennifer Strechay, Program Officer for Community Investment