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Experiences From My Health Literacy Teaching

Experiences from my Health Literacy Teaching

by Sabrina Kurtz-Rossi, M.Ed.

The Brazilian educator Paulo Freire wrote, "Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there is no education.” Adult education theory and dialogue drive my teaching in the community and at the university level.

My name is Sabrina Kurtz-Rossi and I am an Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine were I teach health literacy to health professionals in training. I am also Principal of Kurtz-Rossi & Associates, a women-owned consulting group offering a wide range of health literacy education and evaluation services. 

Improving health literacy through teaching and training is my passion. Health literacy is influenced by the skills, knowledge, culture, language and experience of the individual and health professional; and the demands of the health care and public health systems. My teaching and training focus on improving the health literacy of health professionals, health systems, and in the community.

I present here three examples of health literacy educational programs I develop and continue to use. I include a graduate level health literacy course for health professionals in training, a continuing education training for health professionals in practice, and a curriculum designed to improve community health literacy skills and access to accurate and reliable health information. For each example, I include a description of the program, target audience and learning objectives, and sample materials including syllabi, PowerPoint slides, and handouts.  


Health Literacy Seminar  

Graduate level health literacy course for health professionals in training

An example of a health professions degree program health literacy course. Offered through the Health Communication Program, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, the course attracts a multidisciplinary group of health professions students including health communication students, dental students, nutrition students, medical students, and a number of dual degree Master of Public Health students. The course provides students with the opportunity to develop and practice plain language, culturally competent health communication skills to meet the health information needs of health care consumers with a broad range of health information and literacy needs. Upon completing the course learners are able to:
  • Articulate how poor health literacy impacts patient and consumer access to health information and quality health care services
  • Assess written, verbal, and online health information for readability and usability 
  • Use plain language in both verbal and written health communication
  • Identify supports that aid health communication across cultures 
  • Apply health literacy research to health communication efforts in practice

Health Literacy Seminar Syllabus >>


Health Literacy & Cultural Competency Tools and Techniques

Continuing education training for health professionals in practice

This is an example of a public health workforce development health literacy training. This full-day training was designed for public health professionals and health and human service providers faced with the challenges of communicating complex health information across cultures, language and literacy.  Incorporating evidence-based strategies such as speaking in plain language, checking for understanding, and working with interpreters, translators and culture brokers can result in more effective communication and service delivery, and greater health equity. Upon completing this training participants are able to: describe the need for multicultural responsiveness within public health; define key terms such as cultural competency, cultural humility, and health literacy; compare the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards and Ten Attributes of a Health Literate Organization; and apply evidence-based cultural competency and health literacy interventions in practice.  

PowerPoint Slides >>

Health Literacy and the Internet: Who Can You Trust? 

Curriculum designed to improve community health literacy skills

This curriculum, designed to improve health literacy and access to accurate and reliable health information for informed decision making, is best implemented in collaboration with community organizations or public libraries that offer free, public access to the Internet.  The curriculum includes three, one-hour lessons and an intergenerational project-based learning component to encourage students to share what they learned with others in their family and community. Upon completing the curriculum students are able to: use the Internet to search for and find health information; evaluate the reliability of the health information they find; answer relevant health questions using the Internet; and share what they learned with others in their families and the communities.

Project made possible with support from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Cooperative Agreement #5 ATPHP120007-03-00.


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