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Finding the Right Words for Better Health: October is Health Literacy Month

What is health literacy?


Health literacy can be described as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. In other words, it’s not just a person’s ability to read, but a person’s ability to maintain his or her own health through scheduling appointments with the right providers at the right time and taking medication properly. Even more simply put, health literacy is the skill to use health knowledge and services to make better health choices.

“Inadequate health literacy is a significant concern in today's health-care environment as more than one-third of all Americans don't understand the basic medical information that's needed to make informed health care decisions,” said Deborah Christopher, director, Quality and Patient Safety. This knowledge gap can have serious repercussions: poor medication adherence, increased mortality, increased hospital readmissions and trips to the Emergency Department.


Clinicians can help improve patients’ health literacy by using clear and concise verbal and written communications and appropriate teaching methods such as the teach-back technique. This technique is when a patient is asked to describe his or her understanding of the plan of care back to a care provider after it is explained to him or her.

PAH formed a Health Literacy Task Force in 2009 to focus on meeting the health literacy needs of patients. A multi-disciplinary group, the Task Force is comprised of representatives from Pharmacy, Nursing, Quality & Performance Improvement, Nutrition, Nursing Education, and Library Services and a community volunteer. Task Force Members have completed formal training on health literacy principles and standards which was sponsored by SEPA-READS, a regional program supporting the improvement of education for patients 50 and older with cardiovascular health concerns.

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Health Literacy Month Events:

Test Your EQ for Health Literacy Thursday, October 23 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.Elm Garden Cafeteria Health education professional Pamela Zubow Poe, PhD. will have games, test questions, and other activities so you can learn your emotional intel...Full story

Giving is Penn’s way!

Get information about some of the exceptional organizations that benefit from Penn’s Way on the following Wednesdays at the PAH Penn’s Way Fairsheld in the Elm Garden Cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: October 22, 29, and November 5. It’s f...Full story

Lunch and a Movie

In celebration of National Medical Librarians Month, all hospital staff is invited to a special film presentation. “Getting Better: 200 Years of Medicine,” produced by the New England Journal of Medicine, is a 42-minute film featuring three...Full story

What’s Happening – Your resource for events and happenings throughout PAH and Penn Medicine

2014-15 Flu Campaign button
October 15 – December 1Free Employee Flu Vaccines Fall 2014 Penn Program for Mindfulness Courses Special Events October 24PAH Infant Remembrance Day Memorial Candle Lighting October 24 PPMC’s 5thAnnual Cultural Diversity Conference Oc...Full story

Icing on the Cake: Nation's Oldest Medical School Kicks Off Its 250th Birthday Year

Last month, the Perelman School of Medicine kicked off its 250thbirthday year with a cake-cutting celebration hosted by University of Pennsylvania PresidentAmy Gutmann, PhD, and J.Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, Dean of the Perelman School of Medic...Full story

Ride to Conquer Cancer: JOIN US TODAY!

On October 11 and 12, thousands of cyclists of all abilities will participate in The Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. The Ride needs wonderful people like you to help with the following: • Providing...Full story

To Say “Thank You and Farewell”


2014 Employee Flu Campaign Starts Soon

2014-15 Flu Campaign button
Over the past five years, greater than 98 percent of PAH and UPHS employees have been vaccinated for seasonal influenza. Getting the flu vaccine reduces the risk of illness for our staff and helps keep our patients, colleagues, and famili...Full story

PAH 2014 Flu Shot Schedule

Week 1 Wed., October 8 7 am to 12 Noon Pine Basement Thurs., October 9 7 am to 12 Noon Pine Basement Fri., October 10 10 am to 12 Noon Pine Basement ...Full story

What’s Happening – Your resource for events and happenings throughout PAH and Penn Medicine

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October 8 Historic Collections Exhibition Lecture Series Fall 2014 Penn Program for Mindfulness Courses Special Events October 11-12Ride to Conquer Cancer© October 12 2014 Philadelphia Kidney Walk NEW! October 16PAH Schwartz Center Rou...Full story

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