Promoting Health Literacy During Women’s Health Month

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The Florida Department of Health (DOH) joins health professionals and citizens around the state in celebrating women’s health during May. This year, the Women's Health Program has adopted health literacy as its overarching theme to promote women’s health across the lifespan. Throughout the month, special programs will be dedicated to increasing awareness about women’s health issues and encouraging women to make healthy decisions.

“The Department is committed to improving the health literacy of Floridians,” State Surgeon General Ana M. Viamonte Ros, M.D., M.P.H., said. “Literacy skills are a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than age, income, education level or racial/ethnic group. Health literacy is an emerging public health issue.”

Healthy People 2010 defines health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Patients who are unable to follow a health care provider’s instructions are at risk for low health literacy and as a result have poor health outcomes. Literacy skills begin to develop in early childhood.

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DOH Deputy Secretary and State Women’s Health Officer Kimberly Berfield adds, “It is important for women to be comfortable learning and discussing health issues because they are usually the care givers of the household."

Because improved literacy skills empower youth to make better health choices, the Women’s Health Program has selected two books to promote health literacy among youth. In conjunction with the DOH Adolescent Health Unit, copies of the book BeYOUtiful! will be distributed throughout the state to young women, ages 11-17, during Women’s Health Month.

Through the Read for Health Initiative to promote health literacy to children, volunteer readers can visit second and third grade classrooms and read Plate Full of Color: Diabetes Prevention for Children. More than 700 copies will be read and given to youth in classrooms around Florida. These books are provided by the DOH Bureau of Environmental Health – Florida Birth Defects Registry.

In celebration of Women’s Health Month, DOH will host and recognize other community activities throughout Florida, including health fairs, focus groups and seminars. On National Women’s Check-Up Day on May 11, DOH encourages women of all ages to be proactive with their personal health and schedule preventative exams and screenings. This focus on prevention can be extended to other aspects of women’s heath including routine exercise and eating a healthy diet.

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