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Cindy Brach Talks About the Evolution of Health Literacy (HLOL #246)

by | Apr 1, 2024

Cindy Brach was the lead for health literacy and cultural competence at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and co-chaired the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Literacy Workgroup. Brach led the creation of many important health literacy tools and resources including the AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, the discussion paper, “Ten Attributes of a Health Literate Health Care Organization,” from the Roundtable on Health Literacy, and PEMAT, the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool.Now retired, Brach reflects on the evolution of the field of health literacy.

In this podcast, Cindy Brach talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Perspective about how health literacy has changed over time. Health literacy began with a realization that written materials were too hard to understand. Soon after, it also looked at spoken communication. Once value-based care came along, patient engagement became a key focus. The goal for many organizations now is to address health literacy systematically and become health literate organizations.
  • Developing effective, evidence-based tools to help. Once organizations became aware that there was a problem, they sought tools and strategies to help. AHRQ took a lead role in developing many of them. You can learn more on AHRQ health literacy website and access the AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 3rd
  • Vision and hope for what’s ahead. While a lot has been accomplished in health literacy, there is still more work ahead. In Brach’s opinion, that includes research about which interventions are most effective, how best to implement them, and what organizations get in return for being health literate. It also includes an increased focus on health literacy strategies to promote health equity.

More ways to learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Third Edition, by Helen Osborne. Many chapters are relevant to this podcast including “About Health Literacy,” “Assessment Tools for Health Literacy,” “Assessment tools for Readability” and “Organizations: Health Literacy Across Programs, Companies, Communities, and Countries.”

Read a transcript of this podcast.

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