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