Roundtable: How Health Literacy Became a National Policy Issue

Saturday, November 10, 2012: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
International D (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Cindy Brach, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Speakers:  Rose Marie Martinez, Institute of Medicine/Senior Board Director, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Susan Pisano, America's Health Insurance Plans/Vice President of Communications and Scott Ratzan, Johnson & Johnson/Vice President, Global Health
Moderators:  Cindy Brach, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Over the last 15 years health literacy has gone from being a topic studied by a small band of researchers to a national public policy issue (Parker and Ratzan 2010). Health literacy is defined by the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as, “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.” After documenting that individuals with limited health literacy experience worse health care and health outcomes (Berkman et al. 2004), the field of health literacy has transformed into a movement within the health care quality field. It asserts that efforts to improve quality, reduce costs, and reduce disparities cannot be successful without improving health literacy addressing the communication needs of all Americans, especially those with limited literacy (Nielsen-Bohlman, Panzer, Kindig 2004). Now the highest ranking federal health officials have called health literacy improvement a national priority (Benjamin 2010; US DHHS 2010; Koh et al. 2012) and health literacy has been reflected in federal legislation (Somers and Mahdevan 2011; PLA 2010). The private sector has also assumed a leadership role in generating the transformation to health literate organizations (AHIP 2011). This roundtable will chart the course of health literacy’s ascension. The participants, who are members or staff of the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Health Literacy, will analyze how health literacy captured the hearts and minds of health care policy leadership. Topics will include: • The role of inter-disciplinary research in setting the policy agenda • Building support for action within the Department of Health and Human Services • The importance of public-private partnership • The influence of Institute of Medicine activities • Health literacy measurement advances • Growth of health plan recognition and activity • Experiences with educating elected officials and policymakers 1. America's Health Insurance Plans. Health literacy and america's health Insurance plans: laying the foundation and beyond. Washington DC: America's Health Insurance Plans; 2011. 2. Benjamin R. Health literacy improvement as a national priority. Journal of health communication. 2010;15 Suppl 2:1-3. 3. Berkman ND, DeWalt DA, Pignone MP, Sheridan SL, Lohr KN, Lux L, et al. Literacy and health outcomes. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2004. 4. Koh H, Berwick D, Carolyn Clancy, Baur C, Brach C, Harris L, et al. Health Literacy: At the Tipping Point? Health Affairs 31:2434-443. 5. Parker R, Ratzan SC. Health literacy: a second decade of distinction for Americans. Journal of Health Communication. 2010;15 Suppl 2:20-33. 6. The Plain Writing Act (PLA) of 2010, Pub. L. No. P.L. 111-274 (October 13, 2010, 2010). 7. Somers SA, Mahdevan R. Health literacy implications of the Affordable Care Act. Health Literacy and Health Care Reform: A Workshop; Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine; 2011. 8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. National action plan to improve health literacy. Washington, DC; 2010.

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