Health Literacy: Adult Education's Role
The adult education system plays a vitally important role in enhancing the health literacy skills of the public. Adult educators teach their students the functional literacy skills they need to manage their daily lives. Many programs are promoting health literacy by addressing these skills within the context of health promotion and health care delivery, topics of considerable interest among adult learners.
Adult education classrooms can be an ideal setting in which to help adults strengthen their health literacy. Many instructors have been trained in how to integrate health issues into lessons that address core reading, writing, and math skills. Students meet in small groups, typically several times a week for 100 hours or more, creating an opportunity to personalize instruction and address a topic several times. Adult educators have the knowledge and skills to negotiate different cultures and languages and address common learning barriers that prevent people from comprehending information received in other settings. Guided by experienced instructors, the classroom setting can provide a safe and trusted environment for adult learners to explore health issues.
As adult educators prepare their learners with the skills needed to manage their lives, including navigating the health care system, the health care community offers a unique opportunity to enhance the learning process through action-based partnerships. In the past few years, numerous partnerships have taken shape in New York City. The collaborations have allowed adult learners to visit local hospitals on a class trip. Adult educators have been able to work with hospital staff to arrange for guest speakers in their classrooms. Teachers have incorporated hospital forms into their classroom exercises. Many other projects have been developed.
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