On October 4th, the Twitter accounts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social media (@CDC_eHealth) and healthfinder.gov (@healthfinder) proposed a chat on October 7th with a hashtag of #healthlit to discuss the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy developed by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
What happened on Twitter during that hour still blows my mind away 20 hours later as I’m writing this.
I and quite a few librarians, library-related folks & library Twitter accounts (medical and others) were there along with federal, state & local/county-level agencies with health information interests, hospitals, regular media, healthcare social media strategists, health information vendors, health educators, public health educators, and countless others.
We were probably supposed to follow a semi-structured question/discussion format centering on the health literacy action plan that is gently cattle prodded moderated as most scheduled Twitter chats are.
That’s not quite what happened.
The energetic passion that resulted from everyone seeking to connect, share and learn about each other’s strategies and approaches for health literacy were contagious to the point of being an instant online pandemic. It was chaotic. It was overwhelming. It was the first time I saw the MedlinePlus Twitter account (@medlineplus4you) be quite engaged in a hashtag chat including direct replies to others… putting the social in a National Library of Medicine social media channel.
It was one of the most unexpected and amazing community flashmob experiences I’ve been a part of on Twitter. I was just one small voice contributing the Medical Library Association’s and the National Network of Libraries of Medicines’ health literacy resources and supporting the discussion about MedlinePlus, NIHSeniorhealth and the Information RX program.
Other health literacy resources I managed to gulp from the firehose (besides the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy) were
- Health Literacy Online (fantastic ODPHP resource covering how to write & design easy-to-read websites)
- The Plain Language Medical Dictionary Widget (University of Michigan)
- Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative (National Institutes of Health)
- Talk To Your Doctor (part of NIH Clear Communication)
- Talking With Your Doctor (National Institute on Aging)
- Improving Health Literacy for Older Adults (PDF, CDC)
- Improving Communication with Older Patients (AAFP)
- Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals (online health tutorial, CDC)
- Health Information for All by 2015 (HIFA2015)
- Health Literacy Studies (Harvard)
- MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources (NLM)
For me, the most exciting thing was having people from so many perspectives coming together with so much enthusiasm to discuss health literacy. Not a single one of us (or the agencies we work for) has The Only Right Answer: if we did, everyone would already understand medical information and there wouldn’t be a national action plan to improve it.
With everyone continuing to come together and all perspectives being heard, that is very likely to change. I can’t even begin to cover the multiple threads addressing accessibility, jargon, acronyms, disparities, specialized health needs (rural, seniors, etc) that were part of the conversation beyond resource sharing. There is a WTHashtag archive but it’s very hard to follow these threads there. I am excited about additional discussions and future collaboration opportunities though and will keep writing as I learn more about how to get involved.