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Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog

How to use print materials to promote maternal health literacy

Adults learn in order to solve a problem they have now. Pregnancy and early parenting present many new problems, along with new motivation to seek information. That makes the prenatal to preschool period the most effective time to promote maternal health literacy.
Promoting maternal health literacy means empowering mothers to better manage personal and child health and healthcare.  Print information is a useful tool to do that. But not just any information. And not just handing it to her.
The first step toward health literacy is learning to obtain information that is reliable, understandable and actionable. Information that get’s read and shared and saved is also brief, attractive, encouraging and conversational. Progress toward health literacy can start with skillfully crafted materials.
Give no info until it is requested.
A rule of health literacy promotion is that the learner must be in charge of the learning. The corollary is, give no information until it is requested.  Then give the just essentials. Select content that is easy to read and brief. Too much information, or info that exceeds the learner’s skills, is disempowering. It leaves the recipient feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, and still uninformed.
Providing information that is not requested - delivering the curriculum- makes you the expert in charge of the learning; it makes you the problem solver; it positions the mother as incapable and unreliable.  In contrast,  responding to requests for information makes you a trusted partner to the self-directed learner and problem solver.
Information that builds health literacy, not only increases knowledge. It also develops a gourmet taste for learning, builds confidence and presents opportunities for reflection, self-discovery and small, doable steps toward better self-care and healthcare. Health literacy promoting materials increase capacity to independently obtain more information from reliable sources.
For example, Beginnings Guides present free national 800 numbers to anonymously get information and assistance with topics from domestic violence to food safety to quit-smoking. The Pregnancy Guideenables  a mother to differentiate common discomforts of pregnancy from warning signs that warrant a call to her healthcare provider, and prepares her to make the call.  The new 2014 editions include a scan code to link to pre-screened online resources from a mobile device.
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide scores a Superior rating on 26 factors known to affect reading and comprehension.   See the SAM (Suitability Assessment of Materials) Review of the Guides.  Also, watch for the results of the ongoing review by 30 experts and practitioners using the new Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT-P) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It rates “understandability and actionability” of information. (I’m try not to think about puppies…)
You can previewand order or reorderBeginnings Guides at
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