May 25, 2016

IHA's 15th Annual Health Literacy Conference: Reflections

By Kelsey Leonard, MSIS, Preston Medical Library 

As a medical librarian, there are many different options when it comes to conferences. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend the Institute for Healthcare Advancement’s Health Literacy Conference in Anaheim, CA. It was a very busy three days, through which I greatly enjoyed myself and further expanded my knowledge of health literacy.

The first day, which consisted of pre-conference sessions, provided a great introduction. I really enjoyed the session “How to Explain Health Insurance to the Newly Insured.” It focused on how to make it easier to explain insurance. Also, I learned that the word deductible is the term most commonly misunderstood! I knew it was a difficult term, but I would not have picked that as the most misunderstood. One of the takeaways from the class was these really great videos in which kids explain insurance. The videos can be found on GetInsured’s YouTube Channel.

The next day, I was in full conference mode. It was jam-packed of sessions, networking, breakout groups, and more networking. I was lucky enough to meet Rima Rudd, whose work in the health literacy field I greatly admire. My favorite session was the opening keynote panel titled “Deeper Dive: Signposts on the Road to Health Literacy’s Future.”
This panel focused on where we want to be in regards to health literacy by 2026. It was interesting that in order to discuss where the panelists wanted it to be, they had to focus on how far we’ve come. These panelists were all experts in the field of health literacy so I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their thoughts on where we are now and where we need to be. In my work, I tend to focus a lot on what we need to do, or how we can make everything more health literate, so I appreciated listening to the discussion on how much has changed.

The rest of the day consisted of breakout groups. I chose to focus on “Co-Creating a Shared Vision to Improve Health Literacy” and “Solving the Mystery of Program Evaluation.” They were valuable and I wish they could have been longer. Following the breakout groups, there were two more main sessions, which discussed organizations that support health literacy and health literacy related to public health. They were both quite interesting!

The last day was just as busy, even though it was shorter. We still had sessions and breakout groups, which lasted well into the afternoon. We started the morning with another panel, but this one discussed integrating health literacy into their organization. This panel was why I wanted to attend the conference. I loved listening to the panelists’ experience! They were extremely knowledgeable and did a great job explaining how they made their organization health literate. The best part was that they shared their toolkits so we could review their process. This panel was everything I wanted and more. It made all the traveling worth it.

Overall, I enjoyed this conference and can see why so many people attend. I was able to expand my knowledge of health literacy, as well as increase my passion for health literacy in my job. I want to take what I learned and put it to good use because health literacy is such an important issue in the medical field. Through networking, I made connections with other medical librarians, public health personnel, and hospital personnel. The knowledge I gained that I can use and expand on from this conference is priceless to me. 

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