So what was really going on? Lori, who is part of a market research group, asked the Literacy Council if she could meet with several of our students who struggle with reading. She met with our students individually and had them read instructions for how to apply a cream that is going from a prescription medication to over-the-counter. The whole point was to make sure the directions were clear enough for the general public. This research is a requirement by the Federal Drug Administration. The standard practice for over the counter medication instructions to be written at a 4th to 5th grade reading level. “The FDA found that consumers thought words like "indications," "precautions," and "contraindications" were confusing and not easily understood.” Think about that! And that’s the whole point of Health Literacy month - to promote the importance of understandable health information and the use of plain language.
Plain language, that’s something I can get behind. Even if you don’t struggle with reading, there are plenty of ways to get confused about health information. Have you ever tried to read those instruction sheets that come all folded up with your prescriptions? You either need five hands to unfold them or a magnifying glass to read them. Or try reading the fine print of your health insurance plan - PPO, EOB, stop-loss, indemnity insurance. It’s easy to get confused when making such a big decision.
That’s where the Literacy Council comes in for those who do struggle with reading. In addition to basic reading literacy, the Literacy Council is works with students with many kinds of literacy, including financial literacy, computer literacy, and quantitative literacy. Because in the United States there are still 36 million adults who can’t read at a third grade level.
We think Illiteracy of any kind sucks. But health literacy could be a matter of life and death. Can you imagine trying to give your child medicine but not being able to read the directions properly? How about understanding blood sugar levels or signs of infection after a surgery? If the directions are not in plain language, those 36 million people with reading difficulties, can suffer. The Literacy Council is happy to be a part of the effort promoting health literacy because it matters to the students we serve everyday. We’re also proud to be a part, even if a small part, of helping researchers make the directions on drug label more readable.
If you know someone who needs help reading, visit our website to see how we can help. You can find our referral form here. http://www.limaliteracy.net/literacy-council-referral-page.html
It may have gone unnoticed last week during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. There were some great things going on at the Literacy Council. For one, at Mayor Berger’s Press briefing last Wednesday our director, Ken Blanchard, said something people may have missed. He addressed it in a letter to the editor in the Lima News. But also this month, the Literacy Council not only got a new art park thanks to volunteers from a Husky team, but the council also received a major donation from two community business partners. Husky Energy and Potash. The donations respectively keep a tutor on the payroll and help pay off the mortgage on our office. And we can’t thank them enough for helping us keep doing our work with adult students.
So, why did two of the largest corporations in Lima donate to us? For one thing, they know us. And they know what we do. They trust us and they think Literacy in Lima is as is important as we do.
Or did you notice this? The release of the ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) yesterday by the United Way of Greater Lima highlighted this large group of people within our community that are working but still struggling to make ends meet. (Lima Allen County comes in at 31% in poverty, and 15.5% unemployment!) Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this population also comprises our target population of low literate readers and those that have no high school diploma, or worse, a diploma but still fall in the 1 in 6 in our community that read at a third grade level or below. These are the people we serve. You will be hearing a lot more about the ALICE report and what we and all of the United Way agencies are doing to impact and improve the next report, and more importantly, the people and families behind the report.
What one person can do
The Literacy Council is always looking for volunteers to help with our efforts. Primarily, that is done by becoming a tutor for another adult. The only requirement to become a tutor is the desire to share the love of reading with another. If that is not possible, consider a donation to the Literacy Council. Any amount is deeply appreciated in our efforts to help all of our fellow citizens.
To learn how to donate, how to become a tutor or just to show your support, email firstname.lastname@example.org.