Week 4, Health Literacy Attribute 5

We are thrilled to share the fourth interview in our series on the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations in celebration of National Health Literacy Month. This series is meant both to inform and spark discussion. Please join Health Literacy NY and be a part of the conversation! Thank you!

This week, we have jumped ahead and are featuring Attribute 5: Meets the needs of populations with a range of health literacy skills while avoiding stigmatization. Attribute 4 will be discussed during next week’s special Halloween edition.

Thankfully, we were able to catch the very busy Emelin Martinez, who manages three key health literacy-related initiatives at New York-Presbyterian Ambulatory Care Network. As the program manager for Health Education and Adult Literacy (HEAL), Waiting room As a Literacy and Learning Environment (WALLE) and Reach Out and Read, Emelin shared some important operational insights into how to meet the wide ranging health literacy needs of patients and caregivers.

Say Ah!: How do ensure awareness of – and sensitivity to – low health literacy on the provider side?

Emelin: New York-Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Network (NYP-ACN) works with the medically underserved population, with majority being an immigrant patient base. Therefore, within ACN, all the residents are trained in the tenets of health literacy by me. Dr. Dodi Meyer then trains all the residents on cultural competency. This way, we try to increase the providers’ ability to communicate in a health literate and culturally competent manner, or at least start to get them exposed to thinking that way. One thing I tell residents is to always recognize that the person in front of you did not go to medical school, so you have to be mindful of what you say and how you say it.

The volunteers that are part of any health education and adult literacy program initiatives are also trained how to approach patients, meet them where they are at, and communicate with them in a clear and non-didactic manner.

Say Ah!: How does each level incorporate clear communication in their daily interactions with the patient population that your organization serves?

Emelin: I can only speak from the trainings that are given, but the residents are trained in health literacy (especially teach back method). During the monthly medical home meetings, we try to re-emphasize these practices. Volunteers are also trained to communicate with the tenets of health literacy and cultural competency. Additionally, the hospital values putting patients’ needs and wants at the forefront when communicating and assessing. In developing patient materials as well as methods to teach volunteers and residents, we involve patients in the development of health education related materials to incorporate their feedback, which is very important.

Say Ah!: You create – and oversee the creation of – health literate materials What is your process to ensure these pieces meet the ability of your patient populations?

Emelin: For written patient material used at NYP-ACN sites, the steps to ensure suitability before production is as follows: (1) Present the material to the Multidisciplinary Committee at both Cornell and Columbia sites; and (2) Present the material to the Patient and Family Advisory Council to ensure we are meeting the needs of the people we treat.

About Emelin Martinez 

Emelin has provided direct health literacy support to thousands of patients and their families through her work as the Waiting room As a Literacy Learning Environment (WALLE) and Reach Out and Read (ROR) Program Manager for New York-Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Network’s Community Health Education and Outreach. She has implemented the ROR at NYP’s Columbia University Medical Center site, as well as at five community clinics serving Northern Manhattan. She has helped create patient-informed health education curricula and materials to better meet the needs and abilities of consumers; and she has trained more than 200 medical residents in health literacy best practices.

Emelin cites her work serving as the health literacy specialist for the ACN Multidisciplinary Patient Health Education Committee as a career highlight. Her collaborative efforts there helped result in a Clear Mark Award, an Award of Distinction from the Center for Plain Language, for “Healthy Eating — Spanish,” NYP’s Diabetes Self Management Education Booklets in 2016.

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