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October is Health Literacy Month, a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information. 


And for HR pros, it couldn’t come at a better time. 

“People have difficulty understanding health information all year long,” says Health Literacy Month Founder Helen Osborne. Those of us involved in employee benefits know firsthand that electing health benefits can be especially difficult if you don’t know how insurance works or aren’t familiar with the vocabulary. This season presents HR professionals with a great opportunity to become Health Literacy Heroes! 

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. And it’s a big problem in the U.S. New data from Accenture found that 52 percent of U.S. consumers have low health care system literacy, including 33 percent with no experience and 19 percent who are novices.  

What’s even more shocking is that low health literacy costs insurers and employers $26 more on administration fees for every consumer. That translates to $4.8 billion annually in administrative costs across the United States 

As you head into Annual Enrollment, put on your red cape and be a hero to the people you serve by following these tips: 

  1. Prioritize. First things first, make an action plan prioritizing the how and what of your health literacy campaign. Rather than trying to focus on everything, zero in on the most important topics to your employees. This may be updates to your employer plan that need to be communicated, or perhaps you have a large population of parents that need additional education on dependents. Getting grounded in the most valuable subject areas will help you provide quality education throughout October leading into Annual Enrollment.  
  2. Use your resources. There are many effective resources out there that can help increase health literacy for your employees. For example, last year we hosted a webinar with some of our partners about breaking down the language barrier to improve health literacy. This is the type of tool meant to be used again and again. Another route is to tap into your health care providers to help employees understand and navigate their health insurance options and answer questions.  
  3. Communicate across channels. We’re big on this tactic at Businessolver for all forms of employee communications, but especially when it comes to the complex topic of health care. During Health Literacy Month, deploy your campaign through printed posters, hosted panel discussions, email memos, and over your intranet. Not only will you reach all your employees this way, but you’ll likely tap into the different ways that your employees learn, thereby helping the messages to resonate 
  4. Make it fun. It’s no secret that health care isn’t the most exciting part of everyone’s day but make it fun by playing into the themed month. Create a mini campaign that will keep employees engaged and, therefore, educated throughout the month. You could host a Health Literacy Breakfast Bar with best practices for navigating the health care system or put together a trivia game to test employees’ knowledge on health care lingo. Bonus points for clever giveaways! 

Looking for more on health literacy? Download our health literacy infographic.  

View all Posts by Rae Shanahan