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Introduction to ESOL Health Literacy

"We should address in a sustained manner the problem of health literacy in our Nation with a goal of improving health status within and across populations ... Too often, there exists a chasm of knowledge between what professionals know and what consumers and patients understand. Basic health literacy is fundamental to the success of each interaction between health care professionals and patients—every prescription, every treatment, and every recovery." -- Howard Koh, US Surgeon General, in National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy (2011)

This section explores health literacy for ESOL learners’ situations, with recommendations and case studies. It describes health literacy considerations for specific populations, identifies health literacy stakeholders, outlines the relationship between health literacy and EL/Civics, and proposes future steps. It also includes an interview with Julie McKinney, moderator of the LINCS Health Literacy Discussion.

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1.1 What is ESOL Health Literacy, and Why do I Need to Know About It? This article explains health literacy as it pertains to the unique situation of English language learners (ELLs). It proposes ways the ESOL field can help improve learner health literacy and better prepare learners for the U.S. health care system.
1.2 Health Literacy Basics For those new to health literacy, this document outlines key information about the understanding of health literacy in the U.S. and interdisciplinary efforts to improve health literacy.
1.3 Case Studies These case studies describe the experiences of ELLs trying to access and navigate U.S. health care, then prompt teachers to identify ways ESOL health lessons can empower learners in such scenarios.
1.4 Virginia Adult Education Health Literacy Survey Results This report reveals what adult educators in Virginia said about health literacy instruction in VALRC’s Spring 2012 survey.
1.5 Is ESOL Health Literacy EL/Civics? This document explains how ESOL health literacy is actually EL/Civics education.
1.6 Health Literacy Stakeholder Chart: Who’s Involved in the Health Literacy Movement? This chart identifies who is who in the interdisciplinary U.S. health literacy movement. It can help programs identify possible partners or funding sources for health literacy projects.
1.7 Culture and Health Resources Online This list links to useful web resources for learning about views of health and health care in different cultures.
1.8 Aspects of U.S. Health Care Culture This document identifies widely held beliefs and practices from U.S. health care culture. The list can help educators prepare for ELLs’ questions and concerns that may arise in health literacy instruction.
Health Literacy Signficance for Special Populations The following fact sheets identify specific health literacy concerns of different populations that may be found among ESOL learners and suggest topics these learners may find relevant in health lessons.
1.17 Mental Health and ESOL Learners This article provides general information on culture and mental health, stresses and adjustment challenges experienced by many ELLs, and post-traumatic stress. It offers suggestions for creating a classroom environment supportive of learners experiencing stress relating to resettlement, acculturation, or trauma as well as suggestions for lesson content to prepare learners for U.S. views on mental health and mental health treatment.
1.18 Popular Health Literacy Definitions: Effectiveness for ESOL Health Literacy Purposes A sampling of the many definitions for health literacy compares how these impact ESOL learners.
1.19 Interview with Julie McKinney Julie McKinney, moderator for the popular online LINCS Health Literacy Discussion Group, shares what educators can gain from participating in this online interdisplinary health literacy community.
1.20 The Future of ESOL Health Literacy: A Wish List This wish list brainstorms resources that would support ESOL health literacy in Virginia and the U.S., with the goal of promoting patients’ abilities to use the health care system efficiently and effectively. (PDF)


Introduction to ESOL Health Literacy | Using the U.S. Health Care System | Teaching ESOL Health Literacy |
ESOL Health Literacy Partnerships | Links for Educators | Links for Learners

© 2013 Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center. All rights reserved. The VALRC, located at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU School of Education), is funded primarily through the VA Department of Education. This publication was paid for under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998; however, the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education should be inferred.