October is Health Literacy Month. This marks the 10th year that this international observance has called attention to the importance of understandable health communication. On Call has been a supporter and promoter of Health Literacy Month since it began.
The founder of Health Literacy Month is Helen Osborne, MEd, OTR/L, president of Health Literacy Consulting. Helen writes the monthly On Call column "In Other Words" that, for the past ten years, has provided On Call readers helpful and insightful advice. Not only has she explored how to effectively communicate with patients and other healthcare clients, but she has also focused on how professionals can work with each other to improve the way healthcare is delivered.
I remember when Helen conceived the idea of some type of grassroots campaign designed to promote the importance of understandable health communication. I was fortunate enough to be among the handful of people she invited to a brainstorming session that focused on how to raise awareness. We were consultants, editors, patient educators, clinicians, literacy specialists—who all had some sort of interest in or history of making health information more accessible. And we all pitched ideas that Helen took and ran with.
Health Literacy Month has been a major success. And over the past 10 years Helen's reputation and her expertise have grown steadily. An award winning writer on the topic of health communication and a frequent speaker at conferences, Helen has championed the cause of clear communication and in doing so has made an impact on the life of many—health professionals and health consumers alike. We're proud that she writes for On Call, and we're happy for her success. Good work, Helen.
Please visit the Health Literacy Month website to learn what you can do to help make a difference.
This month's feature by Susan Wessling, is the third in our ongoing series about healthcare and homelessness. In it, Susan describes the work of the nurses who are part of the Mercy Medical Center's Health Care for the Homeless. The 18-member staff, which includes six RNs, four nurse practitioners, and three case managers, provides care for a largely disenfranchised and devalued population at 46 locations in three western Massachusetts counties spanning 1,800 square miles. It's good to know such programs exist. Wouldn't it be great if they weren't needed?