Urban Partnerships to Address Health Literacy in High Need Populations
Keywords:HEAL program, health education, community-academic collaboration
Low health literacy disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority communities and lower-income socioeconomic groups. To address this critical determinant of health inequity, two nonprofit organizations, Repairers of the Breach, a day shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, and Bread of Healing a neighborhood-based clinic serving individuals with low incomes, partnered with researchers at Marquette University to implement and evaluate an evidence-supported health literacy program. The partnership delivered the curriculum in seven one-hour sessions over seven weeks. The program attendees were predominantly African American men and women from 19–73 years old. Most participants had formal education ranging from elementary school to some college. Forty individuals attended at least one class and 14 attendees completed 4 or more classes. Program completers demonstrated gains in confidence and topic knowledge. Most interviewees reported a personal/family need for the program, acceptability of the group format, and the ability to learn the skills they needed for self-care. The project used a successful collaboration between community-based organizations serving vulnerable populations and an urban academic institution to demonstrate the necessity, feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of formal health literacy education in adults with low incomes or who are experiencing homelessness. Urban and metropolitan serving institutions can work in partnership with community to address low health literacy in high need populations.