Health Literacy Grant Awarded in Stillwater

(STILLWATER, OKLA. / Oct. 26, 2016) - Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) has announced a grant award of $4,000 to the Stillwater Public Library. The funding, made possible by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, will allow the library to promote health and wellness information, programs, and resources to the community.

“America’s Health Rankings,” an annual report by the United Health Foundation, ranks Oklahoma near the bottom of the list, according to Leslie Gelders, director of ODL’s Literacy Resource Office.

“We rank 45th out of the 50 states,” Gelders said. “Part of the problem is not having access to and understanding health information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly nine out of ten Americans have problems reading and using consumer health information.

“If the majority of Americans have problems understanding health information, imagine the obstacles faced by people with low reading skills or a limited understanding of English.”

The Stillwater Public Library grant will address several county-specific health and wellness issues.

“In the 2014 State of the State’s Health report, Payne County scored D or F grades in several categories,” said Lynda Reynolds, Stillwater Public Library director. “Our goal for the program is to work with health-related organizations in the county to improve health literacy and health in five key areas.”

The library program, called “Simple Steps to Better Health,” will provide community members with classes, challenges and information on heart health, stroke prevention, healthy lungs, immunizations and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, all areas that received a failing grade in the report.

Each month beginning in February, the program will focus on one of those five topics by holding health information and healthy cooking classes taught by the Payne County Health Dept. and Payne County OSU Extension. Weekly Tai Chi classes will be available to encourage overall health.

Participants will also have a chance to complete challenges, like attending the classes or changing a health habit, to earn entries into monthly prize drawings, including the grand prize drawing, a three month pass to Total Health provided by Stillwater Medical Center.

Along with concerns about the results of the State of the State’s Health report, Reynolds said there are also concerns when it comes to the ability of many Payne County adults to access, read, or understand credible health and wellness information.

Studies reveal that an individual’s ability to read and understand health information is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity.

 “In order to improve the county’s health outcomes, community members need to be able to access and understand reliable health information,” Reynolds said. “Having information online, accessible in seconds, should have made getting health information easier. But in many ways, it has actually made it harder. Although there is a wealth of great resources, there is also a wealth of bad resources. We want to make sure that our community knows where to go to get credible facts.”

Gelders said health literacy programs and partnerships are a relatively new concept for Oklahoma library and literacy programs.

“The better understanding individuals have about their health choices, the better the outcomes. That’s why this project is so important, and that’s why the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are providing the funding for these grants.”

For information on Oklahoma’s adult literacy efforts, visit http://libraries.ok.gov/literacy.

Anyone interested in being sent information when program registration begins should the contact the library at 405-372-3633 x8106 or askalibrarian@stillwater.org.

To learn more about the local effort, visit the Stillwater Public Library’s website at http://library.stillwater.org.