Celebrating Health Literacy Month: 7 Ways to Raise Awareness

by Julie McKinney,

HL Month
What is Health Literacy Month?

Every October for the past 24 years, we’ve been celebrating Health Literacy Month! Maybe it doesn’t come with pumpkins, fireworks, dancing, or gift-giving...but it’s an exciting month with lots going on in the health literacy (HL) community! Health Literacy Month is a way to recognize the importance of making health information easier to understand and act on; and to come together as organizations and communities to raise health literacy awareness and help make that happen.

Many organizations plan special events or projects at this time to help their staff, clients and communities build awareness or improve their health literacy. But how do we get the word out?

We want to raise awareness in 2 ways:

  1. To encourage folks within the HL community to do something special during the month.
  2. When we plan an event or special project, we want to share it with all stakeholders, including staff, leaders and consumers.

7 Tips to Raise Awareness:

Here are some general tips to raise awareness about HL month and its activities. Some may involve just your staff, clients, patients or consumers, and some may be for local or open-ended communities.

  1. Announce your plans in organizational newsletters, listservs or email lists. Tell your organization's staff ahead of time that it’s HL month and ask what the different groups or departments are doing to honor it. Or share news of your department’s project to get everyone involved. Same thing with newsletters shared with clients, patients or consumers.                                                                                                                                 
  2. Distribute flyers and posters around your organization and the community. Don't forget the low-tech stand-by’s! For example, if you're having a health fair, create visible ways to tell people in the community so they will come to it.                                                                                                                                                         
  3. Recruit and work through community leaders as much as possible. Whose voice does your community listen to? Are there neighborhood groups or community organizations with charismatic, beloved leaders? Find these people and work together. This is an especially good way to better reach high priority populations.                                                                                                                                                                                
  4. Share the Health Literacy Month Website. Send your team members and stakeholders to the website to help them understand what the month is all about and why HL is important. It includes a handy HL Month Toolkit, and a page of Action Ideas to see how others have built awareness.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  5. Make use of your social media channels. Use the HL Month Toolkit to help with your social media outreach. Download graphics, videos and sample posts to use and share. And don’t forget to use the hashtag: #healthliteracymonth!                                                                                                                                       
  6. Post your activities to the Health Literacy Main Community! (Also known as the Health Literacy Discussion List.) This listserv has thousands of members from all over the world who are dedicated to improving health literacy. Even if your project is only for your organization or local community, it will give others ideas of what they can do. You can also ask questions here to get advice and ideas about your project and process.                                                                                                                                                           
  7. Tip: Start this outreach as early as possible! 

However you promote your work for a strong HL Month presence in your community, we salute your work and hope it goes well! And when the month is over, please find ways to tell your community how it went! If you follow up after the event and share stories, successes and data, it will keep this tradition vibrant and help you and others plan for next year! 

Maybe, if your team is creative, you can even include some pumpkins, fireworks, dancing, or gift-giving in your events! 😃

About the Author

Julie MckinneyJulie McKinney is a health literacy specialist with over 20 years of experience in the field, with a focus on creating plain language materials, forming partnerships, and sharing resources. She has moderated the Health Literacy Discussion List for 15 years.

Julie now also works with Exceptional Lives, Inc., a non-profit in Boston, MA. She develops and writes easy-to-read tools to help parents of children with disabilities navigate complicated processes and get the benefits, services and support they need.


Permanent Hyperlink to Share