HEAL Launches at Read Muskegon

Did you know: the single greatest predictor of an individual’s health is their literacy level? Imagine trying to figure out how to manage diabetes, give your child the proper dose of medicine, or stay healthy during COVID, when you, like over 50% of our country, read at an elementary school level.

Read Muskegon is proud to announce our newest program designed to help families across Muskegon County increase their health and literacy skills, together — Health Education & Literacy Program (HEAL). 

HEAL is an award-winning, research-based health literacy program designed by the College of William & Mary. The program utilizes a unique, two-pronged approach: 

  1. Classes for adults with low health literacy, and
  2. Training for local medical staff, raising their awareness of low-health literacy and providing practical tools and strategies for working with these patients. 

Literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than income, employment status, education level, race or ethnicity. People with low health literacy are more likely to skip important preventive measures and to enter the health care system when they’re sicker. They’re more likely to have chronic conditions, and less likely to manage them effectively.  They are significantly more likely to report their health as poor. 

Low health literacy strains the health care system, resulting in preventable hospital visits and admissions, longer stays, higher readmission rates and extra tests, procedures and prescriptions. The estimated health costs of low-literacy in the U.S. are between $106-$236 billion annually. 

When we increase an individual’s literacy skills, we can directly impact their individual health as well.

The Schroeder Center for Health Policy at the College of William & Mary found that HEAL participants gained statistically significant knowledge and confidence in health topics. Not only did they improve their  literacy skills, they also increased their confidence in communicating about health topics. This allowed parents to be stronger advocates for themselves and their children’s needs when working with local doctors.

We are excited to bring this life-changing program to Muskegon County, launching our first classes virtually in December. HEAL will be integrated into our ESL and jail-based programs and our family literacy program at the Muskegon Heights Hope Center. Through a grant from the White Lake Community Fund, we will offer three sessions; serving students at Duck Creek Alternative Education Center, Head Start parents, and those referred by health care providers. Plans for 2021 include providing HEAL at shelters, in partnership with local churches, and at community healthcare facilities.