South Shore Community Partners in Prevention
Health Literacy Initiative
Please take a few moments to watch this video, funded by the SSCPP Health Literacy Initiative. It was produced to illustrate the importance of clear communications between health providers and consumers. Our Health Literacy Initiative has prioritized improving health outcomes for special and vulnerable populations, and we hope that this video is a good first step in that direction.
South Shore Community Partners in Prevention (SSCPP) is a coalition of health and human service providers and consumers that is committed to improving the health of the communities on the South Shore [i]. SSCPP was convened in 1994 as one of 27 Community Health Network Areas in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
As a result of its 2011 Community Health Assessment [ii], SSCPP identified three primary areas of need:
- increase healthy eating and active living
- improve access to health care
- address the needs of special and vulnerable populations (people with low income levels, older adults, people with chronic health conditions and others).
Using a collaborative priority-setting process, SSCPP decided to focus its attention on addressing access to health care and the needs of special and vulnerable populations particularly given that Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – Plymouth, one of its member organizations, had already begun a collaborative community planning on healthy eating and active living.
With regards to access to health care, SSCPP has noted that the First Annual Report Card (2011) of the Healthy People/Healthy Economy Coalition gave Health Literacy a grade of “incomplete” with the comment:
“Little is being done as yet to address health literacy systematically, either in Massachusetts or elsewhere. However, numerous initiatives, now in early stages, aim to increase the engagement of Massachusetts residents in their health and health care—a task that will require health care and public health professionals to overcome limited health literacy among Massachusetts residents.” [iii]
The Third Annual Report Card (2013) while giving health literacy a grade of “C” noted that “there are many ongoing initiatives to improve health care by addressing barriers posed by poor health literacy. Now the focus should be on successful implementation”. [iv]
What is Health Literacy?
Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. [v]
Health literacy is dependent on individual and systemic factors:
- Communication skills of lay persons and professionals
- Lay and professional knowledge of health topics
- Demands of the healthcare and public health systems
- Demands of the situation/context
Health literacy affects people’s ability to:
- Navigate the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
- Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
- Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
- Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk
South Shore Community Partners in Prevention Health Literacy Initiative
The South Shore Community Partners in Prevention Health Literacy Initiative was established in October 2012 as the organizing structure for the commitment of SSCPP to improving health literacy on the South Shore. Drawing from the observations of the Healthy People/Healthy Economy Coalition in 2011, SSCPP established the following initial goal for the initiative:
“…to improve the ability of residents to advocate for their own health and to understand their responsibilities for their own health. “
Four objectives have been identified to work towards that goal:
- Complete a health literacy assessment that identifies barriers that limit individuals ability to advocate for one’s own health care and understanding ones responsibilities for personal health;
- Promote the role of community health workers as essential contributors to improving health literacy, in general, and the ability of people to advocate for and understand their health and health care;
- Conduct an evidence-based education and awareness campaign within the communities to strengthen capacity of people to advocate for their own health.
Health Literacy Assessment
SSCPP has contracted with Health Imperatives of Brockton to conduct the health literacy assessment. The assessment is designed to obtain information from a wide range of stakeholders through focus groups, key informant interviews and surveys.
The following are key elements of the health literacy assessment:
- What is the extent of low health literacy in the SSCPP service area?
- What are the barriers for our consumers in advocating for their own health needs, particularly within vulnerable populations?
- To what extent do limited transportation and other health care access barriers affect the ability of individuals or groups to actively engage in their health
- How empowered are consumers in advocating for their needs.
The health literacy assessment will also serve as an initial community engagement strategy as SSCPP strengthens community capacity and interest in addressing health literacy and broader issues of access to health care for special and vulnerable populations.
Health Assessment Findings
[i] Carver, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Marshfield, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton and Rockland