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Health Literacy Guiding Principles to Implement Health Equity

Head Start's seven Health Literacy Guiding Principles
Head Start's seven Health Literacy Guiding Principles

Every organization that creates and delivers public health information needs guiding principles about health literacy. The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy and Head Start’s National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety (NCHBHS) are working together on health literacy guiding principles and toolkits to help Head Start, a vital program for families with young children, put health literacy into practice. NCHBHS designs evidence-based resources and delivers innovative training and technical assistance to build the capacity of Head Start and other early childhood programs.

Early childhood programs play an important role in making sure children and their caregivers understand and have equal access to health-related information and services. Health literacy is an important strategy for program staff and families to enhance the quality of communication, reduce health disparities, and advance health equity in early childhood programs.

NCHBHS and the Horowitz Center began with seven core concepts - capacity, content, equity, dissemination, feedback, practice, and evaluation - to draft guiding principles. We used the principles to develop health literacy toolkits for Head Start’s key areas. The first toolkit is for the Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Centers and includes skill development, learning activities and resources. The toolkit content builds knowledge and skills in best practices for organizational health literacy and creates a foundation for early childhood programs to further their development as health-literate organizations.

NCHBHS and the Horowitz Center are working on two additional toolkits - one for Head Start program managers (grantees) and one for families. These toolkits also include skill development, learning activities and resources so programs can provide health information that families understand and can use to manage their health. By adopting and applying the guiding principles, early childhood programs improve staff and families’ abilities to make informed health-related decisions and actions and evaluate their progress. The TTA toolkit was completed in August 2023 and the two remaining toolkits will be completed in 2024. Read more about Head Start's Health Literacy Guiding Principles.