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Symposium Focuses on Improving Health Literacy

May is Older Americans Month, a month that focuses on a key group of healthcare consumers, so it’s an appropriate time for the health literacy symposium that is under way today, May 19, as part of United Way’s LIVE WELL health initiative. The symposium is being held to equip healthcare providers to better communicate healthcare information to their patients to help patients make difficult decisions and become actively engaged in their own healthcare.

Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment. Over 89 million American adults have limited health literacy skills.

Sponsors of the health literacy symposium at UNT Health Science Center are United Way and its Area Agency on Aging, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Texas Health Resources and UNT Health Science Center.

Keynote speaker at the symposium is Dr. Michael Paashe-Orlow, MD, MA, MPH (pictured at right), Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. He is speaking on “The Role of Health Literacy in Healthcare and Health Disparities: A Focus on a Team Approach to Shared Decision making.”

Other speakers are talking about “Engaging Patients by Providing the Right Care in the Right Place with the Right Caregivers” and “Smart Technology and Relationship Engagement to Empower.”

Dr. Pat Gleason-Wynn, LCSW, RN (shown at left), a consultant and lecturer who is also Chair of the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council, is speaking on health literacy and ethical values in end of life care. Following her remarks, an ethics panel is discussing a team approach to quality end of life care.

“Good quality healthcare includes good communication, cultural sensitivity and shared decision making,” said Dr. Gleason-Wynn. “Decision-making can be hampered by poor health literacy, a reluctance to talk about the limitations of life-sustaining treatment, or fear of the dying process and death. Healthcare professionals should respect the patient’s and family’s values, beliefs, needs and wants, and honor their choices and decisions.

The symposium concludes with remarks on “Well-Being in Fort Worth” bySuzanne Duda (pictured at right), Vice President of Blue Zones Project Fort Worth.