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Promoting Health Literacy Through Storytelling


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									Promoting Health Literacy Through Storytelling                                                                   Page 1 of 7

    Promoting Health Literacy Through Storytelling

    Vivian Day, BSHCA, MHA, RN


           Patient education is becoming increasingly important in today’s healthcare environment as chronic
           conditions become more prevalent. Yet even when education is provided, patients may fail to follow
           recommendations given by healthcare providers because they do not understand the information
           provided to them. This article encourages the use of storytelling to present healthcare information in
           an easily understandable and captivating manner. After discussing health literacy concepts, the
           author compares the linear and experiential ways of learning and describes how storytelling can be
           an especially effective way of teaching experiential learners.

    Citation: Day, V., (Sept. 30, 2009) "Promoting Health Literacy Through Storytelling" OJIN: The Online Journal of
    Issues in Nursing Vol. 14, No. 3, Manuscript 6. Available:

    Keywords: adult learning, experiential learning, health literacy, linear learning, literacy, patient education,

    The human brain is miraculous in its structure and capacity. It has literally
    millions of cells and neurons that work together to enable learning to
    occur. Although the brain is a basic structure in each human being, no two            The real health literacy issue
    brains are identical. These differences can affect how individuals learn and          is not the lack of
    influence their level of health literacy. The United States Department of             information, but rather the
    Health and Human Services (U.S.DHHS) in the Healthy People 2010                       ability of the healthcare
    (2000) document defined health literacy as “the degree to which                       consumer to access and
    individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic                process the information.
    health information and services needed to make appropriate health
    decisions.” This document has explained that health literacy includes
    activities, such as the ability to understand instructions on prescription
    bottles, appointment slips, health-related brochures, provider’s directions,
    and consent forms, as well as the ability to navigate and negotiate
    complex health systems. Health literacy requires more than the ability to
    read. It also requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytic, and
    decision-making skills, and the ability to apply these skills to health situations.

    Nutbeam (2000) contributed to our understanding of health literacy by identifying three distinctive health-literacy
    levels. Basic or functional literacy involves having “sufficient basic skills to read and write to function in everyday
    situations” (p. 263), while the second level, communicative or interactive literacy, involves the ability to use
    existing social skills to actively extract information and draw meaning from a variety of communication methods
    and ultimately to apply new knowledge to changing circumstances (p. 264). The third level, called critical literacy,

http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJ... 2/11/2010
Promoting Health Literacy Through Storytelling                                                                  Page 2 of 7

    involves the ability to critically scrutinize information from
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