Health Literacy 101 in Newark, N.J.

Dates of Project: July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2012

Description: During this three-year project, the Ironbound Community Corporation partnered with Rutgers University School of Nursing (formerly University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)) to offer classes and workshops to improve health literacy among non-English speaking Latino immigrants in a formerly industrial section of Newark, N.J. The project also participated in health fairs, and provided training to ICC’s own staff and to local nursing students on how to recognize and address health literacy problems.

“We teach them how to use a thermometer; how to read medication labels; how to recognize disease symptoms; ways to access the healthcare system; and what’s available for you even if you lack insurance.”—Petra Lebrón, MSW, project director

“The content on the classes changed, depending on what students wanted. We encouraged them to shape the curriculum. We wanted it to be them telling us what they wanted to learn.”—Frances Munet-Vilaró, PhD, an associate professor at UMDNJ’s School of Nursing who served as the project’s health instructor 

Key Results

  • ICC held six sessions of Spanish-language health literacy classes, lasting between eight and 12 weeks apiece; 64 participants attended 80 percent or more of the classes. Most of the program participants reported positive health outcomes such as weight loss, consistent exercise, healthier diets, and “better numbers” in medical tests—and increased ability to access needed health services.

  • About one-third of the agency’s staffing participated in training to identify and support clients with low health literacy.

  • UMDNJ’s School of Nursing updated its curriculum to add content on health literacy for both undergraduate and graduate nursing students.

  • In partnership with UMDNJ, ICC offered 12 educational workshops on topics that included asthma, diabetes, CPR and mental health, and participated in six health fairs.

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90 million American adults lack sufficient health literacy to understand & act on basic health information.

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Community corp. with nursing school partner improved health literacy among Latino immigrants in Newark, NJ.