The Edmond Sun

November 5, 2012

Grants target health literacy programs

Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — Low literacy skills have a direct impact on the health of Oklahoma consumers, and a new grant initiative is helping five adult literacy programs address health literacy issues in their communities.

Literacy programs in Altus, Claremore, Edmond, Tulsa and Sapulpa have each received a $3,000 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Funding is through the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grants can be used to purchase health literacy resources, offer health literacy workshops and presentations, and expand literacy instruction to include health topics for adult learners.

Oklahoma is ranked as the 48th least healthy state in the nation according to United Health Foundation. The study cited smoking, obesity, diabetes, limited availability of primary care physicians, and low use of prenatal care as the causes for the low ranking.

Much of the consumer health information available in print or online is written at a 10th-grade reading level, according to Leslie Gelders, ODL Literacy Coordinator.

“That’s a problem,” Gelders said. “The Center for Disease Control says almost nine out of 10 Americans have problems reading and using consumer health information.”

“If the majority of Americans have problems understanding health information, imagine the problems for people who have low reading skills or a limited understanding of English.”

Gelders said many adults throughout the state have trouble reading even the most basic text. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that 43 percent of Oklahoma adults may have limited literacy skills.

“An individuals ability to read and understand health information is actually a stronger predictor of a person’s health than his age, socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity,” Gelders said.

In order to improve the state’s health outcomes, Gelders said Oklahomans need to be able to access and understand health information, speak effectively with medical professionals, follow dosage instructions and use available health resources to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

ODL partnered with the Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign, the Oklahoma Literacy Coalition and other health and literacy organizations to host the state’s first Health Literacy Summit in September.

“Now we’re using this grant process to bring more attention to the connections between health and literacy, and to initiate some ideas and projects that strive to address the issue.”

The programs receiving grants are: Great Plains Literacy Council in Altus, Rogers County Literacy Council in Claremore, Project READ in Edmond, Creek County Literacy Program in Sapulpa and the Ruth G. Hardman Adult Literacy Service in Tulsa.

FOR MORE information on the overall project or the local efforts, contact Leslie Gelders at For information on Oklahoma’s adult literacy efforts, visit To access Oklahoma’s new health literacy website visit