Health Literacy in San Antonio

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Health literacy can save lives, save money and improve health. Many argue that healthcare reform cannot be successful without efforts to address health literacy, defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

For physicians and healthcare professionals, patients’ lack of health literacy is often a barrier to effective treatment and a factor that can increase the risk of medical error.

Members of The Health Collaborative (THC) were visionaries when they recognized poor health literacy as a hidden risk factor for many of their community health issues and embraced the San Antonio Health Literacy Initiative (SAHLI).

SAHLI is a grassroots organization developed to increase health literacy awareness and improve health literacy as a core component of community health. It was one of the first such initiatives in the country. It brings healthcare professional volunteers (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, academics) together with community organizations (promotoras [health workers focused on the Spanish-speaking community], libraries, food banks, K–12 schools, adult education programs, etc.) to join forces and leverage their efforts. Many are on the front lines of health literacy research, education and program development.

For the last eight years, SAHLI has hosted one of the country’s premier health literacy conferences and the only one in Texas. SAHLI also presents year-round training on various aspects of health literacy for healthcare professionals.

A nonprofit organization, The Health Collaborative began informally in 1997, when the city’s major healthcare organizations agreed to put aside their competitive business practices to improve the health status of their community by working together. Every two years, they conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of local health, and today, this report guides the community’s efforts toward prevention and health improvement. The assessment was instrumental in identifying health literacy as a community priority.

The Health Collaborative members include Baptist Health System, Bexar County Department of Community Resources, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, Community First Health Plans, Our Lady of the Lake University, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Methodist Healthcare System, San Antonio Metro Health District, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Department of Family & Community Medicine, University Health System, WellMed Medical Management Inc., the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, and Appddiction Studio.

If you are interested in more information on health literacy and an accredited continuing education article entitled “Health Literacy and Health Care Reform,” please visit

This Continuing Medical Education activity is brought to you by Dannemiller. For more than 29 years, Dannemiller has been an independent provider accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and holds the highest level of accreditation. Dannemiller provides accredited education online, in printed publications and in live courses. Dannemiller is proud to present accredited education located in MD News.

For more information on THC, visit or phone 210-481-2573.