Health Literacy Month – Have you heard about the “Words-to-Lose” project?

Linda Scribner (l to r) of Methodist Dallas, Tamra Acierni of Baylor Scott & White Health, Tracy Chamblee of Children’s Health, Sri Adusumilli of JPS Health Network and Dr. Eric Benink of Medical City Healthcare display “Words to Lose.”

Did you know October is “Health Literacy Month?” Members of the DFW Hospital Council (DFWHC) Foundation’s Health Literacy Collaborative completed a “Words-to-Lose” study last week. The test provides healthcare employees an opportunity to provide words that should be eliminated when communicating with patients.

The use of plain language is a health literacy strategy for making written and oral information easier to understand for both patients and doctors. Plain language is communication that users can understand the first time they read or hear it.

“Words to lose are industry and scientific terms healthcare workers routinely use that patients don’t understand,” said Patti Taylor, director of quality and patient safety at the DFWHC Foundation. “During the test, we wrote down a technical word we routinely use and substituted a word easier to understand. Hopefully, we can commit to using such plain language in the future to improve health literacy.”

Examples during the test included:

• Use “High Blood Pressure” and lose “Hypertension”
• Use “Heart Attack” and lose “AMI”
• Use “Severe Infection” and lose “Sepsis.”

It is estimated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy. In other words, nearly nine out of 10 adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. The same study also indicated only 14 percent of adults have below basic health literacy.

Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services. In addition, these outcomes are associated with higher healthcare costs.

During Health Literacy month, the DFWHC Foundation Health Literacy Collaborative would like to ask you to use the below template and have your work group commit to @wordstolose. You can then post the “Words to Lose” on your company’s social media pages.

“We want to encourage healthcare providers to participate in Health Literacy Month and the ‘Words-to-Lose’ campaign,” Taylor said. “As we speak, we are in the process of applying for funding to carry on this campaign through workshops and training sessions in the community.”

You can download a “Words-to-Lose” form here.

For information, please contact Taylor at