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​Day 1 - October 10, 2019

Health Literacy Implications for Health Policy

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Registration

1:00 pm - 1:10 pm: Welcome

Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, Dean, UMD School of Public Health, and Cynthia Baur, PhD, Director, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy   

1:10 pm - 1:30 pm: [Opening Remarks] How Maryland is Working to Become a Health Literate State: Successes and Challenges

Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Maryland House of Delegates.

Delegate Peña-Melnyk, represents District 21 (Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties) in Maryland’s House of Delegates and is the Vice-chair of the 2019 House Health and Government Operations Committee. She is also a Horowitz Center for Health Literacy Advisory Board member. The Delegate will provide her perspective on how health literacy issues are part of the health policy issues state legislators are confronting. She will comment on positive steps to address health literacy in Maryland, suggest what else should happen, and challenge participants to take up key issues during the conference.


  • Explain Maryland’s legislative activities and opportunities to advance health literacy.
  • Apply the policy information to advance health literacy at participants’ own locations.
  • Connect health literacy policy ideas and compare them for relevance to their own local situations.

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm: [Panel 1] Pursuing Health Literacy Goals through Federal and State Health Policy Reforms

Moderator: Eva DuGoff, PhD, University of Maryland School of Public Health, Health Policy and Management

Health literacy is rarely the main topic or goal of healthcare reform initiatives, but many policy reforms reference health literacy as a precipitating or contributing factor, a necessary feature of reform activities, or a possible outcome. Even when health literacy isn't referenced, reforms may rest on assumptions about informed, engaged and activated consumers, patients, families, and caregivers. This panel examines two state-level programs based in federal laws and regulations that have important implications for health literacy. Mr. Perman will describe the Maryland Primary Care Program that aims to coordinate care, improve health outcomes, and reduce overall costs. He will link these aims to health literacy issues that are essential to the ultimate success of the MDPCP or any other healthcare delivery reform. Ms. Eberle will explain how the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange recognizes and addresses health literacy issues as part of expanding health insurance coverage and promoting benefits use in the state.        


  • List at least 2 ways that health literacy is implicated in federal/state healthcare policy reforms
  • Describe at least one primary care program and one benefits exchange feature that can improve health literacy
  • Interpret how health literacy is connected to at least one federal/state health policy reform requirement

Advanced Primary Care and Health Literacy Imperatives
Panelist: Chad Perman, MPP, Maryland Primary Care Program

The Connection between Health Literacy and Health Insurance
Panelist: Michele Eberle, MBA, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange

2:30 pm - 2:45 pm: Break

2:45pm - 3:45 pm: [Panel 2] How Do We Make Health Literacy, Cultural Competence, and Language Access Policies Effective?  

Moderator: Cynthia Baur, PhD, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy

Federal and state agencies as well as public and private healthcare organizations operate under a variety of laws, regulations, and policies to address health literacy, cultural competence, and language access needs of the populations they serve. For example, Maryland has two laws that encourage health professions schools and practicing clinicians to develop their knowledge and skills in health literacy, cultural competence, and health equity. However, the laws do not require students to have specific education in these topics nor do practicing clinicians have to receive specific training or demonstrate a minimum level of competency. Moreover, the laws do not have ongoing oversight or enforcement mechanisms. Similarly, the Joint Commission Roadmap on Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient-centered care reflects the challenges in confirming how accredited facilities meet the standards and demonstrate compliance in publicly visible ways. This panel explores the opportunities and barriers in health literacy, cultural competence, and language access policies through the lens of Maryland's experience and encourages discussion about a policy framework that is transparent, enforceable, and meaningful in creating positive changes.


  • List at least 2 reasons why health literacy, cultural competence, and language access policies are necessary
  • Describe at least 2 features of effective health literacy, cultural competence, and language access policies
  • Compare at least 2 options for monitoring how health literacy, cultural competence, and language access policies are implemented and evaluated

 Promoting Health Literacy in the Presence of Cultural and Language Barriers
Panelist: Suyanna Barker, DrPH, La Clinica del Pueblo

Addressing Cultural Competency and Health Literacy Together in Maryland
Panelist: Olivia Carter-Pokras, PhD, University of Maryland School of Public Health, Epidemiology & Biostatistics

3:45pm – 4:00 pm: [Conclusion] Priority Areas for Health Literacy Policy

Cynthia Baur, PhD, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy

This session will ask participants to suggest the highest priority topics and themes for health literacy policies at federal and state levels.

  • Identify high priority policy areas
  • Organize priorities by themes


Day 2 - Oc​​​​tober 11, 2019

Health Literacy Implications for Organizations and Practice

All Day: Registration

8:30 am -9:00 am: Breakfast

9:00 am -9:05 am: Welcome

Michael Villaire, MSLM, Institute for Healthcare Advancement

9:05 am - 9:20 am: Opening Inspiration

Lucia Zegarra, Director of Community Health Programs, Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER)

Ms. Zegarra will describe her everyday experiences working with Latino clients on health information, community services, and healthy behaviors.

9:20 am - 9:50 am: [Opening Keynote] What You Say and How You Say It: A Clinician's View of Plain Talk about Immunization

Dianna Abney, MD, Network Management for the Pediatric Health Network, Children’s National

Immunization is one of the main public health contributions and accomplishments of the modern age. However, recent outbreaks of measles and chicken pox and challenges in hitting annual flu and HPV immunization goals suggest a mismatch in immunization messages and the public's understanding and acceptance of immunization science and recommendations. Dr. Abney will share her experiences and perspectives as a practicing clinician and public health leader talking to parents, children, and the public about immunization.


  • Describe the mismatch between immunization messages and public understanding      
  • List at least 2 ways to counter public health misinformation
  • Relate the clear communication challenges with immunization to another public health topic

9:50 am -10:50 am: [Panel] How to Create a Health Literate Organization - Stories from the Field

Moderator: Cynthia Baur, PhD, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy

Healthcare and public health organization staff may recognize that health literacy issues are affecting patient care, quality of services, program effectiveness, and patient and population health outcomes, but be unsure where to begin and how to plan. This session will provide practical examples and tested tools that organizations can use to self-assess and plan for health literacy improvements.


  • List at least 1 relevant tool to self-assess organizational health literacy issues
  • Recognize how to overcome at least 1 barrier or objection to assessing organizational health literacy
  • Plan at least 2 action steps to begin an organizational health literacy assessment

Assessing Primary Care Practices and More: Using the AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit
Panelist: Cindy Brach, MPP, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Health Literacy Initiative
Panelist: Kelsey Grabeel, MSIS, AHIP, University of Tennessee Medical Center

Using Health Department Accreditation Standards for Health Literacy Action 
Panelist: Karen Thompkins, MPH, Montgomery County Health Department

10:50 am - 11:00 am: Break

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Morning Breakout Sessions

 1: Writing for Health Behavior Change

Blythe Miller, MPH and Laura Willwerth, MA, MFA, CommunicateHealth, Inc.

We rely heavily on the written word for health communication, especially for print, online, and mobile health education. Yet we know that providing people with information and telling them how they should behave is not enough to bring about behavior change. This hands-on workshop will discuss strategies to write and design health information in a way that motivates people to take action — without triggering information overload in patients with limited health literacy skills.


  • Describe the basics of writing for health behavior change
  • Practice the key steps for writing for behavior change
  • Understand how to use and assess voice and tone in their content

2: User-Centered Design for Health Literacy 

Kim Hassell, MPH and Rachel Oziel, MPH, CommunicateHealth, Inc.

In this session, you’ll learn about the user-centered design (UCD) process, including key methods and practical tips for applying it to your work. Through case studies and hands on activities, we’ll show you how involving users with limited health literacy skills in each step of your process will result in more accessible and usable digital health communications for all audiences. This session will also cover specific strategies for recruiting and conducting research with audiences with limited health literacy skills and other hard-to-reach populations.  


  • Explain the UCD process
  • Describe the basics of key UCD methods
  • Improve the clarity and usability of health materials and digital tools, especially for audiences with limited health literacy skills

 3: Finding Heath Literacy Resources and Getting involved in the Health Literacy Community 

Julie McKinney, MS, Exceptional Lives, Inc.

Peer-to-peer learning is a hot topic. This session will show you ways you can communicate with other health literacy peers and connect to find answers to health literacy challenges. From regional groups such as Health Literacy Maryland to national platforms such as the Health Literacy Discussion List and IHA’s Health Literacy Solutions Center, learn how you can be a part of a broader health literacy community. The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy will also debut a new tool that shows how to use mapping software to connect organizations interested in health literacy. 


  • Discuss ways to get answers to your health literacy challenges
  • Identify ways to connect with others in the health literacy community.
  • Describe how mapping software can help organizations connect around shared information and services 

4: Building Health Literate Organizations: A Guidebook to Achieving Organizational Change 

Mary Ann Abrams, MD, MPH, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

This interactive session will address key health literacy areas that intersect with the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations: engaging leadership; preparing the workforce; the care environment; involving populations served; verbal communication; and reader-friendly materials, addressing three questions: Why is it important to address health literacy issues in this area? What would success in this area look like? What tools, resources, and actions will you use to reach those target outcomes? Participants will gain a working knowledge of Building Health Literate Organizations: A Guidebook to Achieving Organizational Change Guidebook, and create a plan to advance the health literate attributes of their healthcare organizations.


  • Describe and use the Building Health Literate Organizations Guidebook and discuss the 10 Attributes of a Health Literate Healthcare Organization
  • Identify at least 2 health literacy areas intersecting with the 10 Attributes to focus effort
  • Implement a plan to advance as a health literate health care organization

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00 pm - 1:40 pm: Lightning Breakout Sessions 1

1: Health Literacy 101: An Introduction to the Field 

Michael Villaire, MSLM, Institute for Healthcare Advancement

This workshop will provide an overview of the scope of low health literacy, including frequencies among the general population, general characteristics, abilities and challenges of persons with low health literacy, and the cost of poor health literacy (both in terms of human suffering and dollars).


  • Define health literacy and describe the prevalence of poor health literacy in the United States.
  • Discuss the general characteristics, abilities, and challenges of those with poor health literacy skills.
  • Describe two reasons why health literacy matters in the healthcare system.

2: Teach-Back: Make it an Always Event 

Mary Ann Abrams, MD, MPH, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

This session will underscore the fundamentals of and rationale for use of teach-back, and introduce the Always Use Teach-back! Toolkit. Participants will take away key messages and actions to promote making teach-back an “always event”.


  • Describe how health literacy and teach-back are key elements of patient safety and quality care
  • Identify key components of the Always Use Teach-back! Toolkit
  • Determine next steps to increase use of teach-back by individuals or organizations

3: How to be a Health Literacy Advocate

Leni Preston, Consumer Health Advocate, and Wes Queen, Legacy Leadership Institute on Public Policy

This session will give you an insiders' view from two seasoned health advocates with years of experience talking to policymakers and senior leaders about health policies.  Mr. Queen will discuss how to engage and work with policymakers so they hear your educational messages about health literacy, and Ms. Preston will discuss how to get consumer and patient engagement and health literacy front and center on policymakers' agendas. 


  • Describe the value and role of advocacy in promoting health literacy & consumer/patient engagement with policymakers
  • Identify opportunities to bring the issues of health literacy and consumer engagement to the attention of legislators, policymakers and stakeholders 
  • Describe ways to maintain interaction with legislators and policymakers during and outside of the legislative session.

4: Choosing a Health Literacy Activity for your Organization

Cynthia Baur, PhD, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy

How do you know which health literacy activity will fit best with your organization and what you want to accomplish? This session will guide you through a series of questions and self-reflections to gain clarity about what a health literacy activity can mean for your organization and the people you serve.  


  • Describe how a health literacy activity can benefit your organization and the people you serve 
  • State at least 1 measurable objective of a health literacy activity 
  • Identify at least 2 action steps necessary for a health literacy activity  

1:40 pm - 1:50pm: Break

1:50 pm - 2:30 pm: Lightning Breakout Session 2 - Repeat of Lightning Breakout 1

2:30 pm - 3:30pm: [Closing Plenary] Health Literacy Specialist Certificate

Michael Villaire, MSLM, Institute for Healthcare Advancement  

This assessment-based certificate program provides a structured educational opportunity for those wishing to advance their knowledge in the field of health literacy. This session will discuss the difference between a certificate and certification; the rigorous process by which the certificate was created; the 7 domains of knowledge and task statements; how IHA is integrating these 7 domains into its educational activities; and how interested individuals can use the domains framework to design their own professional development trajectory.

3:30 pm - 4:30pm: Informal Networking / Reception

Sponsored by The Institute for Healthcare Advancement, a designated provider of continuing education contact hours (CECH) in health education by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.