Posts from the ‘Digital Literacy’ category

Health Care Social Media Review #14: Health Literacy Gems and Treasures

photo by Robin M. Ashford

We are all patients. Yet only 10% of adults have the knowledge and skills needed to understand important information about their health (yikes!).

This edition of the HCSM Review celebrates October’s Health Literacy Month by exploring how this issue impacts online health information and the use of health care social media.

Health Literacy Coming of Age

What’s in a name? Social marketing isn’t the only one experiencing teenage angst in defining itself. Scholars recently conducted a recent review of 17 definitions of health literacy and developed a new definition that “captures the essence” of these definitions found in the literature. Can you believe there were 17 different definitions to begin with?

Taking steps forward. Building upon this review, my RTI colleagues published the “Health Literacy Skills Framework” which includes “information seeking & eHealth” as a critical skill set needed to navigate today’s health information. They also share that “the absence of a common definition and understanding of health literacy may have slowed the field’s progress in developing measures and conducting solid methodological research.”

Recommended reading. Andre Blackman shared this wonderful gem: the recently published eHEALS Health Literacy Scale. The eHEALS is an 8-item measure of eHealth literacy developed to measure consumers’ combined knowledge, comfort, and perceived skills at finding, evaluating, and applying electronic health information to health problems. Also shared was the recommended read of the book Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction.

Patient demands. A recent Harris Interactive study found that patients want more access to Web-based health services. Emily Zeigenfuse expands on this in her post “The Disconnect Between Patient Expectations and Physician Actions.” She discusses the role of communication and how social technologies can help providers more easily transition from acute care to preventative care.

The belle of the ball. Healthcare-related tweets have increased by 51% in 2012! Kristi Eells highlights this and other factoids shared at the recent Health 2.0 conference. From her review of findings, you can’t help but see 1) the increased value and demand for health care social media 2) and the need to address health and digital literacy in our use of these tools.

The Fun Stuff

Hacking for health. Over the weekend, Communicate Health hosted their first Health Literacy Hackathon. They highlight the results on their blog. You can even use the winner’s end product, Carrots/Stick. Carrot/Stick is a phone-based service that utilizes family and social support to empower smokers to quit. Nice work!

Everyone loves a good inforgraphic. Also of note is Communicate Health’s health literacy infographic, We are the 90%! A sneak peak is provided below. Speaking of infographics, Trish Broome explores how infographics can be a health education tool sharing her experience in developing an infographic to communicate flu prevention messages.

Let’s get chatty. is hosting its 3rd annual Health Literacy Twitter chat. Using the hashtag #healthlit, join @healthfinder, @HHS_DrKoh, @AHRQNews, @HealthLitMo and others to discuss IOM’s recent paper on the 10 Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations. Explore the question: How can organizations help people navigate health services more easily?

Imagineering the future library. With Pew’s recent presentation on The Rise of eReading, I couldn’t help but note Lucy Bernholz’ post on the evolving role of the community library. Knowing the role of libraries in health education, innovative models can and are being developed.


Thank you for all of your contributions to this edition. HealthCare SocialMedia Review  has information about the next edition’s host and instructions on how to submit your posts for review in future editions.

Call for Submissions: Health Care Social Media Review #14

How can we use social media to better address health and digital literacy?

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, SocialButterfly will host the HealthCare Social Media Review—the peer reviewed blog carnival for everyone interested in health care social media. Given almost 90% of adults struggle with finding and using everyday health information–and since October is Health Literacy Month, this edition will focus on how we can better address health and digital literacy using social media tools.

Posts sharing insights on the role of health literacy in digital technology are encouraged. Posts that highlight current work in progress or discuss health and/or digital literacy in general are also welcomed.

As added inspiration, check out the Health Literacy Hackathon occurring October 13-14. Participants will be given one day to design a technology-driven tool to improve how people understand and use health information. Note: RTI International, my employer, is a proud sponsor of this event.

To submit your post:

Email a link to your post or posts (no more than two submissions per author) by 5pm (ET) on Oct. 16.

Format your submission email as follows:

  • Email Subject Line: HealthCare SocialMedia Review
  • Blog Title:
  • Blog URL:
  • Post Headline:
  • Permanent link to post:
  • Your Name: Name, Username, Nickname, or Pseudonym
  • Description or brief excerpt:

Learn more about the HCSM Review by visiting HealthWorks Collective or follow @healthworkscollectiv on Twitter. I look forward to your posts!


Newly Released: A Health Literacy Manifesto

Good news! The Center for Disease Control’s blog, Bridging the Health Literacy Gap–is back!

The 10 Attributes of a Health Literacy Health Care Organization

In its come-back post, Dr. Cynthia Bauer highlights a recent contribution to the health literacy field, a publication issued by the Institutes of Medicine titled “Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations.” In some ways, it’s a health literacy manifesto for organizations. As Dr. Baur shares, this discussion paper provides steps health care organizations can take to make it easier for people to use the health care system.  It states that:

a health literacy health care organization:

  1. Has leadership that makes health literacy integral to its mission, structure, and operations.
  2. Integrates health literacy into planning, evaluation measures, patient safety, and quality improvement.
  3. Prepares the workforce to be health literate and monitors progress.
  4. Includes populations served in the design, implementation, and evaluation of health information and services.
  5. Meets the needs of populations with a range of health literacy skills while avoiding stigmatization.
  6. Uses health literacy strategies in interpersonal communications and confirms understanding at all points of contact.
  7. Provides easy access to health information and services and navigation assistance.
  8. Designs and distributes print, audiovisual, and social media content that is easy to understand and act on.
  9. Addresses health literacy in high-risk situations, including care transitions and communications about medicines.
  10. Communicates clearly what health plans cover and what individuals will have to pay for services.
Turning Health Literacy Attributes into Best Practices

Prior to the recent health care decision, Kaiser’s Health Tracking Poll reported:

  • Six of every 10 Americans said they didn’t know enough about the basics of health reform to judge its potential impact on their lives.
  • Four in 10 weren’t sure whether it’s still the law of the land or they thought it’s already been overturned.
  • Roughly 60 percent seem fine with the confusion — they say they’re either not closely following news of the looming health reform case or they’ve tuned it out altogether
Given that 9 out of 10 Americans experience limited health literacy, confusion around health reform shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Thus, we’d hope health care organizations would quickly adopt these attributes, making them best practices. However, imagine this: What if every organization adopted these attributes?

Any organization with employees and a staff has an opportunity to be a leader in transforming the conversations around our health. From explaining health insurance to implementing health promotion and corporate wellness programs, progress is possible.

The Understatement that is Digital Literacy

On Friday, the Department of Commerce’s  National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in collaboration with a number of Federal agencies (including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)  launched of The Web site serves to “provide libraries, community colleges, schools and workforce training centers a variety of resources and tools for teaching computer and Internet skills, which are increasingly necessary for success in today’s economy.”

This “online portal” serves a dire need and includes:

  • Workforce development materials
  • Curriculum materials
  • Train-the-trainer materials
  • Games and interactive tutorials
  • Reports and articles

Built with a user-friendly taxonomy and easy-to-use search features, the site also includes the opportunity for collaboration and feedback. augments NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, a Recovery Act grant program that invests in projects to expand broadband access and adoption in the United States.

Working Group Members of the Digital Literacy Initiative
What’s Cool

Often, sites launch and then people think about marketing them based on a mentality that “if you build it, they will come.” This might have worked for the Field of Dreams, but marketing and outreach needs to be a core component of launching any product from the get go. So get this:

NTIA is partnering with the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote the use of the portal by the nation’s 16,600 public libraries. Now THAT is interesting and THAT is where the real change will occur. This piece of information was the last bit of content shared in the three-page fact sheet about the launch. Yet, it’s where the real meat is (IMO).

Yes, having this resource is great and the fact that so many people are coming together around digital literacy is especially important to recognize. But here’s the thing: The launch of the site is a great milestone, but it’s only the beginning.

Digital Literacy and Public Health

Public health folks need to pay attention. More and more health information is going online and digital. How are the people who most need this information going to use it if 1) they can’t access it and 2) they don’t fully understand it? provides information to those working to help Americans develop digital literacy skills–but there’s also the feedback loop.

Librarians are public health professionals who often advocate to be a part of the solution, but who are sometimes overlooked–not anymore. 16,600 libraries means at least 16,600 stories. Let’s hope we get to hear about how these libraries are using and the impact its having on library patrons.

One of the best parts of the site is the “In the Community” section which highlights best practices from a variety of programs working to address digital inclusion and digital literacy. We need to hear–and listen to–these stories. We need the stories of success–just as much as we need to hear about the ones that failed. Why? Because it’s all about learning. We can learn from those teaching digital literacy and from those developing their digital literacy skills themselves to inform how we produce and deliver public health information.

Broadband access and digital literacy is vitally relevant to public health. Because of this, all public health folks should read the National Broadband Plan, understand it, and advocate for digital literacy and health literacy. Without either, we won’t get too far.

Crossing the Double Divide, Two Million Dollar Questions

Earlier this month, Susannah Fox discussed a health Information divide based on a recent report. This divide was also confirmed in a recent literature review on the effectiveness of social media in public health–cited as a double divide:

“A common concern raised in the published literature (38, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70) relates to the populations with limited online access, poor literacy skills, and disabilities that impair access to social media platforms: “…health scientists exploring the issue of the digital divide have found evidence of a double divide. Specifically, those without internet access (a large portion of whom may be without adequate health care access) are prevented from gaining health information available on the Internet” (38).

Though this double divide exists, it does not mean that we should disregard the Internet and social media as a tool in our health communications and social marketing work. There are bright spots of the Internet and social media’s impact in public health and in impacting the health of vulnerable populations. As, the literature review goes on to share that some researchers suggest that social media platforms can actually “augment poor health literacy of basic literacy skills” and “that digital penetration into marginalized groups actually improves access to some specific demographics.”  And this is where the importance of the National Broadband Plan comes into play.

Why? Because of the National Broadband plan not only outlines how to increase access to the Internet across the United States. But, it also includes key recommendations for increasing digital literacy. One of the recommendations that caught my attention most was the call to create a Digital Literacy Corps with the objective of mobilizing thousands of Americans across the United States to improve digital literacy. Compound that with last year’s release of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy and the objectives set out in Healthy People 2020, and we’re on our way to crossing this double divide.

But what do we do until then?

The literature review offers the following recommendations on using social media to improve effectiveness for public health:

  1. Establish clear objectives.
  2. Know your target audiences.
  3. Design campaigns for longevity and/or have exit strategies and clear archiving processes.
  4. Determine resource needs.
  5. Determine agency content-clearance processes and/or prepare pre-approved messaging scripts.
  6. Listen to online health discourse.
  7. Encourage or sponsor research.
  8. Encourage coordination.

These are great recommendations, and number 7 is especially important. But value is gained from having a critical eye. So when data like this from Pew’s Health Topics report is shared, how can we be sure to reach the people who need our attention:

…fewer than half of adults in the following groups in the U.S. look online for health information:

  • African Americans
  • Latinos
  • Adults living with a disability
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Adults with a high school education or less

As I write and work to use social technologies for social good, I know their potential and understand the benefits they can offer. So I don’t necessarily need “convincing.” Instead, I’m on the lookout for case studies–from the local level and up.

A Case in Point

For example, in St. Louis, the St. Louis County Library and the physicians of Saint Louis University have teamed up on a series of free community health literacy programs, referred to as “60-Minute Health Check-Ups.” The check-ups are” designed to provide information and resources to help attendees learn more about health-related issues. Each program features health information presented by a SLUCare professional, followed by health literacy tips from a St. Louis County Library reference librarian and free health screenings.”

This might not seem wildly innovative–but it’s a strong example of the place “P” in social marketing. And, when you add these stats from the 2010 U.S. IMPACT Public Library study into the mix (borrowed from a comment made by Luke Rosenburger on Susannah’s Health Information Divide post)–you can see the opportunity increased digital literacy could provide for better health:

Research has shown that libraries are a very important nexus for this kind of connection. The “US IMPACT” study, released April 2010 by the University of Washington Information School and underwritten by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reveals that nearly one in three Americans age 14 or older — 32% or roughly 77 million people — used a library computer or wireless network to access the Internet in the previous year. Among people living in households whose income was less than 200% of federal poverty guidelines ($44,000 a year for a family of four), 44% used library computers and Internet access.

Thirty-seven percent of library computer users, an estimated 28 million people, focused on health and wellness issues, including learning about medical conditions, finding health care providers, and assessing health insurance options. In one particular group — seniors (65 and older) living in poverty — a full 54% used library computers for health or wellness needs.

The study also suggests that library computer use leads to positive action on health and wellness: roughly half of the people who used a public library computer to find doctors or health care providers reported that they made follow-up appointments. Among those who reported researching diet and nutrition issues online at the library, 83% decided to change their diet; among visitors who searched for exercise and fitness information, 84% decided to change their exercise habits. The benefits also reach beyond just the individuals who come into the library: nearly two-thirds of library computer users (63%) logged on to help others; 56% reported helping friends or family with health matters specifically.

So are libraries the answer? From the information provided and from knowing some smart and savvy librarians, I’d say yes! But, I feel like they are just part of the answer.

The Million Dollar Questions

One:  What are people doing to cross this double divide and what results are they seeing? Show us the case studies and share the lessons learned!

Two:  In what ways can we reach people on the side of the divide without health information and without digital literacy skills–and bridge the gap in terms of health disparities and health information, services and products? (And before you answer “MySpace” or “mobile” –show me the evidence. As, I feel more and more strongly, to cross the divide, we need a markets-based approach to health that addresses changes regarding the social determinants of health. No?)

BONUS: CDC’s January 2011 Health Disparities and Inequalities Report (CHDIR) — The information in this report is astounding and eye-opening.

flickr credit: kcryder

Still Here–Just In More Places

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting here quite as often. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve been writing for a few different places over the past few months. I highlight some of the posts below:

  • Have Questions, Not Answers for 2011
    [On Care2’s frogloop Blog] In the nonprofit arena, the word “marketing” can have a bad rap. But you can help change that–and with good reason.  Marketing, in particular, social marketing can make all the difference in your organization’s work come 2011.                                               Read More.
  • In Review, the mHealth Attendee Gaining in Notoriety
    [On Pulse + Signal] This week’s mHealth Summit in Washington D.C rolled out the red carpet for some of the world’s top innovators including Ted Turner, Bill Gates, U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and over 2,000 participants from 30 countries. It was a learning hub and feeding ground for those in government, NGOs, research, technology, policy and business. But there’s one attendee I spotted throughout the conference that gained in notoriety and demand—behavior change.
    Read More.

Hopefully, I’ll be back here posting more regularly again soon. However, I’m now starting to understand why, when I tell people that I blog, they ask me: How do you find the time? Well, as you can see, that’s been a bit of a struggle lately. Never fear though–something it always in the works. Until next time, Alex.

flickr credit: Leonard John Matthews

Internet Addiction: Self-Test to Balance Work, Life and the Internet

Having a professional job in online marketing, as well as an online hobby, this blog, I am constantly working to keep my internet usage/exposure at check. Today, I thought maybe others could relate…especially when I overheard a couple teens talking on the metro on my way home about this very issue. Thus, I did a little search (is it ironic?) on the internet.

I came across the Center for Internet Addiction Recorvery, which has been treating internet addiction since 1995. The Center offers numerous downloads, resources and materials for groups broken down into therapists, lawyers, business, and then parents and schools. The Center recently launched it’s new blog, which is full of interesting information. From a brief glance, I read:

  • A debate about if internet addiction is really….real
  • that Korea is becoming the most addicted to the internet
  • about a case where a man died from playing Stargate for 50 straight hours
  • how the internet can cause marital problems of neglect (let alone affairs/adult content issues)

The most interesting part of this site, were the self-tests the Center offers. The most interesting is the IAT, Internet Addiction Test which is the supposed first validated and reliable test to measure internet addiction.

Go for it. Take the test and let us know what me know what you think. The questions alone helped me figure new ways to gauge my own internet dosage.

And, it got me thinking…if internet addiction is real, as it is currently being considered to be a new clinical disorder, I think that possibly, it goes beyond the individual’s responsibility to possibly us as whole. As a social media marketer…this definitely makes me think more about the services we are creating, that we are creating purposeful content.

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