September 5, 2017

COPH Graduates Make Public Health Impact Through Health Literacy

Four UAMS COPH alumna have found their niche with the UAMS Center for Health Literacy. They are part of a highly collaborative team that is dedicated to improving population health by making health information easy to understand. The UAMS CHL mission includes training health professionals and students and conducting health literacy research. The Center also provides plain language services nationwide that include assessing, editing, and creating health materials for the average reader.

The UAMS CHL team was rewarded for its hard work a few months ago, when a patient tool created in partnership with the UAMS Center for Distance Health, received national recognition. The patient handbook, “Cómo Hablar con su Doctor/How to Talk

COPH alumni make up most of the UAMS Center for Health Literacy Staff (second from left-Allison Caballero, MPH, Katie Leath, MPH, Kristie Hadden, Ph.D.; and far right-Nancy Docktor, MPH)

to Your Doctor,” won two coveted ClearMark awards, including the grand prize in the Spanish category. The purpose of the handbook is to help Spanish-speaking patients better communicate with their healthcare providers.

It was during her training at COPH that Kristie Hadden, PhD, the Center’s executive director, chose health literacy as career path. After graduation, she founded the UAMS Health Literacy program, which today is the Center for Health Literacy.

“My early years in communication sciences and disorders, paired with my research training in health behaviors and health education at UAMS, were essential to building the health literacy agenda and vision we have at the UAMS CHL,” says Kristie.

In the past year, joining the Center were Nancy Dockter, MPH, as plain language coordinator; Katie Leath, MPH, as program administrator for health literacy services and communications; and Alison Caballero, MPH, CHES, CRS, as director of programs.

Although each has her own discrete role, when it comes to plain language services, all three, and sometimes Dr. Hadden, are involved. Nancy is typically the first to tackle assessment and editing of a document. The work submitted is diverse; a state agency’s letter to benefits recipients, a UAMS researcher’s informed consent form, or content for a local hospital website are typical.

“I have always enjoyed the editing process, and knowing that our work has a direct impact on folks in the community is very satisfying,” says Nancy.

Katie and Alison, as reviewers, add perspective and polish to documents as they are finalized and returned to customers, accompanied by a summary that explains edits and provides grade level readability scores.

The Center also looks to Katie to put the word out about health literacy and the work of UAMS CHL via social media and other communication channels. She also heads up field testing of plain language materials the Center produces.

“This a favorite part of my job,” Katie said. “We always learn so much from our focus group participants. Their perspective is vitally important to health literacy work.”

Alison too wears many hats, including new business and philanthropic development, strategic direction, grants, and program oversight. “I’ve felt right at home since joining CHL in January,” Alison said. “It is a privilege to work alongside this stellar team every day as we all employ our public health training to improve health across the nation.”