Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Literacy Month Storytelling Project

I'm delighted to share the news that we have exceeded our goal of 31 stories for Health Literacy Month. We will post one or more stories about why health literacy matters each day in October. Our stories come in many forms including personal essays, podcasts, songs, photos, and even a poem. Starting October 1, 2009 you can find them all on the Health Literacy Month website, www.healthliteracymonth.org

Stay up-to-date with all these stories plus other health literacy news by subscribing to the free e-newsletter, "What's New in Health Literacy Consulting." Here's the link, www.healthliteracy.com

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Senator Kennedy taught me the power of story

The front page of today's Boston Globe has a headline, "Senator Kennedy's Life, in Song and Story." It's about last night's remarkable tribute in which so many people told stories, sang songs, and otherwise communicated how much he mattered.

Senator Kennedy mattered to me, too. Beyond his politics (which I almost always agreed with), he taught me about the power of story. In the "Hillary era" of healthcare reform many years ago, I met Senator Kennedy at a fundraising reception. In my brief moment with him I asked why he was so committed to this issue. He said something along the lines of "I had a broken back, my son had cancer, and my mother is having visiting nurses treat her at home." I knew then that his committment was real and ongoing. And I also learned that, even for the most powerful of men, stories matter. Thank you and farewell, Senator Kennedy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Tell them a story"

"60 Minutes" had a tribute on Sunday to its creater and producer, Don Hewitt. This man was remarkable for creating a new television format that combined news with entertainment in 15-minute segments. There was a clip of a young reporter asking Hewitt for advice. He replied, "Four words -- tell them a story."

I find this advice both compelling and validating. A team of us are trying to do somewhat the same with this year's Heath Literacy Month Storytelling Project. We plan to post one or more stories each day in October on www.healthliteracymonth.org.

Why does health literacy matter to you? Please share your story with us no later than August 31, 2009. You can email it to story@healthliteracy.com

~Helen Osborne
Founder & Director, Health Literacy Month

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This year's Health Literacy Month project is about stories. A remarkable team of volunteers and I are gathering stories from people everywhere about why health literacy matters and ways to improve understanding. We will be posting one or more stories each day in October on the Health Literacy Month website, www.healthliteracymonth.org

You can help. Think of the time you first knew that health literacy mattered. This realization may have come from an event, interaction, or experience you had as a patient, family member, friend, student, teacher, librarian, caregiver, or health professional. Tell us your story in words, photos, videos, or audio recording. Please frame your story in a positive way and make it "come alive" by including:
  • Character: who this happened to
  • Setting: where or when this took place
  • Obstacle: barrier or problem
  • Resolution: what happened, how obstacles were overcome
  • Call to action: lessons learned along the way

Act now. We have just a few remaining story slots. Please send your story to story@healthliteracy.com no later than August 31, 2009. Want to know more? Please go to www.healthliteracymonth.org or email Helen Osborne at helen@healthliteracy.com

Health literacy. What's YOUR story?


Monday, August 17, 2009

Almost everyone has stories about health communication going wrong. But it also can go right. One of my positive stories is about how a doctor explained about the risks and benefits of a new medication. I had to make a choice about whether to take a new drug or nothing at all following a bad bout of side effects from another medication.

My doctor began with lots about complicated statistics (she knows I'm savvy about healthcare) but I really wasn't "getting it." It was only when she held one hand high while saying, "This is how much the new medicine can benefit you." And then gesturing low with the other hand saying, "And this is how much risk you'll have by taking it." Her simple gestures helped me decide what to do.

What goes right in YOUR healthcare conversations?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Benefits of a blog

Just back from seeing the wonderful movie, "Julia and Julie." One of my take-away lessons is the importance of regular blogging. This is what I plan to do now through October -- send out regular messages about health literacy and Health Literacy Month. What types of information do you want me to post?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

31 Days of Health Literacy Stories

This October, we're planning to raise awareness about health literacy by posting 31 days of stories about why health literacy matters. We'd like to devote at least one day to stories from around the world. Do you have a story to share? Please submit it no later than August 31, 2009 to story@healthliteracy.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Literacy Month 2009

October is Health Literacy Month. This year we plan to post 31 days of health literacy stories -- letting the world know why health literacy matters. To learn more about this initiative go to the Health Literacy Month website at www.healthliteracymonth.org. To submit your story, please send it to story@healthliteracy.com.

Health literacy. What's your story?
~ Helen Osborne

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jan's Story...

The idea of health literacy was first brought home to me about 10 years ago when my mother was hospitalized for what was believed to be heart problems.  My parents belong to the generation that believes that if someone in a white coat tells you to dance naked on a streetcar, they would probably do it.  I arrived at the hospital the afternoon of the crisis when they were still running tests and trying to decide if she’d had a heart attack.  I told her that I needed to talk to the heart doctor when he came in.  I finally met with him (and my mother) the next morning.  I asked him exactly what had happened and his answer (which I will remember forever) was:  “Well, if you’d been to medical school, then I could explain it to you – but since you haven’t, you’ll just have to trust me.”  To say I was furious is a major understatement.  At that point, he knew absolutely nothing about me or my background.  After a tense silence, I finally said, “you can either attempt to explain it to me or you can explain it to my attorney – your choice.”  He grudgingly then explained what had happened.  After he left the room, I told my parents to get another doctor and to tell their own family doctor what had happened.  They were, of course, horrified, but I managed to explain to them that no doctor could help you if he couldn’t even talk to you about what was going on.  Their family doctor helped them find another cardiologist and he came in and sat down with all of us, drew pictures, practiced a “teach-back” approach, and generally did a fantastic job.  If we expect people to follow our instructions in a healthcare setting, we have to give them the tools to understand.

-Jan Potter, MSTC

Communications Specialist

Partnership for Health and Accountability

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Welcome to the Health Literacy Month blog! For Health Literacy Month 2009, let’s share our stories about why health literacy matters. Stories make abstract concepts come alive. Health literacy is personal, with each person’s experience being the heart of what matters. By sharing stories we learn from one another and create a sense of community at the same time.

Our intent is that this project serves as a gathering place to share stories – sort of like being together around a campfire or conference table, but not. We also hope to create a more lasting record of our shared experiences through a podcast, slideshow, and articles.

We will soon post instructions about the many ways you can share your story.

Health literacy. What's YOUR story?
Helen Osborne & Bridgette Collado