10 Health Literate Attributes, 10 Weeks

Say Ah! is celebrating Health Literacy Month by launching an interview and discussion series on the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations.

We are kicking off the series with Celina Ramsey, MShc, Director of Health Literacy, Diversity and Outreach for Staten Island Performing Provider System, to learn more about the first attribute: Leadership that makes health literacy integral to its mission, structure, and operations.

Say Ah!: It is still unusual for leadership to prioritize and emphasize health literacy, yet Staten Island Performing Provider System (SI PPS) does this. Can you tell us about how the leadership came to see the importance of health literacy?

Celina: At Staten Island PPS, Health Literacy is integral to the foundation of our DSRIP work and mission. NY State’s DSRIP initiative was bold in dedicating an entire ‘workstream’ to health literacy and cultural competency (CCHL), mandating each of the 25 PPSs work on health literacy initiatives. One of our parent hospitals, Staten Island University Hospital, had a robust internal Health Literacy program focused on increasing provider awareness through training and promoting plain language patient education and health communication. The island had a Health Literacy Collaborative dedicated to integrating health literacy health education into adult ed programs run by local community based organizations across the borough.  

SI PPS leadership valued these existing partnerships and sought to expand them, knowing that improving health communication and community health literacy would increase quality and health outcomes for those in our community.

Say Ah!: How was health literacy ‘baked’ into the structures of SI PPS at the beginning?

Celina: Health Literacy is integrated into all facets of our work- from the 11 projects to all population health initiatives and trainings. Health Literacy is a priority for everyone on our team- from our Executive Director to our project managers- and they can certainly walk-the-talk. We’ve had a solid group of CCHL ‘Site Champions’ from each of our partner sites working together to bring resources, training and support back to their organizations. We’ve coined 2017 as the ‘Year of Health Literacy’ and are working with each partner site to implement a compilation of the 10 Attributes and AHRQ’s Universal Precautions Toolkit to support our journey to becoming more health literate healthcare organizations.

At SI PPS, we understand that improvements to policy and provider communication isn’t a total solution for addressing health literacy needs. Community Health Literacy is also a priority for us- we are working with the New York Public Library and other CBO’s on Staten Island to bring Health Literacy programming to their constituents, helping to increase skills and knowledge through health education.

Say Ah!: Can you give us some examples of how the leadership has supported health literacy, in terms of allocating resources (human and financial), integrating it into systems/processes, sets goals, and establishes accountability and evaluation procedures?

Celina: Leadership has supported health literacy with human and financial resources. We have a Director of Health Literacy, Diversity and Outreach with years of experience implementing both organizational and community health literacy initiatives who oversees these programs for Staten Island PPS. We’ve allocated funding for health literacy training for all partner employees, especially for providers, frontline staff, community health workers and health coaches and are financially supporting the community health literacy program.

All NY PPSs are now measured and paid based on performance measure outcomes (pay for performance). SI PPS acknowledges that there are 16 measures impacted by health literacy which are tied to millions of at-risk dollars*. We are using these performance measures and a set of key performance indicators to track and measure partner performance relating to health literacy improvements. Our Health Literacy workgroup meets monthly and are tasked with integrating health literacy universal precautions at their facility.

*These measures include: potentially preventable ER visits, potentially preventable readmissions, children’s access to primary care (ages 12mos-19 years), discharges with diabetes short term complications, smoking cessation, among others.

About Celina Ramsey, MShc:

Celina is an advocate for improving health communication and sharing health knowledge. She combines her love for teaching with her passion for balancing social injustices while working on the Cultural Competency and Health Literacy (CCHL) workstream at SI PPS. Celina oversees engagement with Community Based Organization partners, assists with Communications and Marketing and works on the Healthy Neighborhood project. She is currently a lead for the DSRIP NYS CCHL committee and is proud to support this important work.

Celina completed her Master Of Science in Health Communication from Boston University. She comes to the PPS with over 10 years experience teaching Health Literacy and English as a second language, and previously developed and implemented innovative programs for language access, medical interpreting, health literacy, diversity and inclusion and LGBTQ healthcare equality.

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