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Albuquerque Health Literacy Program

The Albuquerque Health Literacy Program is a partnership of the City Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI) and many community-based organizations (listed below), along with the University of New Mexico Office for Community Health (OCH), the Community Health Workers Initiative (CHWI), the University of New Mexico Hospital’s Health Literacy Office (HLO), and in coordination with the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH).

The City of Albuquerque's Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) is partnering with 12 community clinics and non-profits to provide COVID-19 health education with a two-year $3.9 million federal grant. OEI has allocated nearly $1,166,410 in the first year to the organizations so that they can hire and train Community Health Workers (CHWs) to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate peer health education. OEI dedicated an additional $65,000 for the Pathways to a Healthier Bernalillo County program to implement the COVID health literacy intervention in the community. The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNM HSC) is a key partner. Their program, the Community Health Worker Initiative (CHWI), brings their award-winning technical expertise in CHW development and training to implement and evaluate the program, and capture innovations to help cities promote health equity. 

The ABQ Health Literacy Program (ABQ HLP) program offers culturally and linguistically appropriate services to increase vaccinations and health literacy of populations who are disproportionately impacted by the virus – and the misinformation around it - via local best practices learned from community feedback. 

Community Health Workers are trusted health ambassadors in their communities who encourage COVID-safe practices, including vaccinations, masking, testing and staying home if exposed and while sick.

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What is Health Literacy? 

Health literacy is defined 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.

Health literacy is being able to interpret information and translate it into plain language that is easy to read and understand. Health literacy enhances the public’s health by translating complex medical information about how to stay safe in the era of COVID into common languages.

What are Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Standards? 

Do you ever wonder why some communities stay healthy while others struggle? CLAS Standards are 15 action steps that healthcare organizations can take to advance health equity, improve quality, and eliminate health disparities, or gaps. Health literacy begins with accessible health information, so ABQ HLP's COVID educational services are delivered in over 14 languages every day in our city, thanks to our partner agencies who reach deeply into their communities to spread the word and help keep the public safe. AHLP promotes accessible health information by using pandemic protection as a conversation-opener to talk about other, relate health concerns.

COVID-19 and Health Literacy 

The pandemic has been an incredibly fluid environment which makes COVID health literacy one of the biggest challenges facing those who are unvaccinated. With new information coming out regularly, and misinformation spreading, it is hard for people to know exactly what to do to protect their families and themselves. Individuals with low literacy levels may face challenges when it comes to understanding important information about COVID, public guidelines, and vaccinations. And people with low literacy may be more likely to believe untrue information that’s spread though social media, on the radio, and on TV.

What Does the ABQ Health Literacy Program Do? 

A CHW, or Community Health Worker, receives specially focused training and up-to-date health information to engage their communities in a dialogue to promote healthy outcomes in hard-to-reach neighborhoods. Because CHW’s tend to come from the communities they serve, they are ideal messengers to deliver rapidly changing health information because they are often more trusted and easy to find than health or medical professionals.

A typical visit with a CHW happens every day in two places, in health clinics and through community based organizations. In one of our city’s many community-based organizations or health clinics, like Casa de Salud, NM Asian Family Center, or Centro Savila, a Mom may go in with questions about how to vaccinate her children for school. When the Mom meets with the staff, or doctor or nurse practitioner, as an example, she will also meet with a CHW who will talk with her about her life and health needs, and how the family is doing with work, school, and what kind of fun things they like to do. The CHW looks for ways to help that family stay healthy and get their needs met through listening to stories about the family’s health – especially around their social determinants of health – and, then, offering skilled suggestions, answering questions, and linking them with existing community resources or other useful information to help them stay well. Then they follow up to see how the family is doing, and if her services are still needed.

We take a systems-based approach to community health that addresses health inequities in the age of COVID to improve outcomes by funding what works for population health equity: to expand COVID-19 health education to all City residents in plain language, using Community Health Workers who leverage Health Literacy approaches that reach and inform highly-vulnerable communities and promote COVID prevention, vaccines, and treatments for equitable health outcomes. 

ABQ HLP relies on trusted local “health ambassadors” called Community Health Workers (CHWs)– sometimes known as Promotoras, Navigators, Peer Health Workers, Community Health Reps, and more -  to increase access to COVID information and prevention measures by applying health literacy principles so that people who are disproportionately impacted by the virus, and the misinformation around it, can stay safe and healthy.  Systems change happens when local best practices emerge from community feedback, as when CHW’s share the knowledge they learn from community members with their agency supervisors and program administrators.

In this way, highly-vulnerable community members are assisted to access other resources they may need to stay healthy, including rental assistance, job training, access to food and healthcare, to name a few local needs that are commonly known as the social determinants of health. And health systems and social service agencies learn to apply wisdom “from the bottom up” when they implement changes or programs to address the problems they hear from clients and community members. 

Year One Impact

In the first year of the federal COVID Health Literacy grant, ABQ HLP made the following impacts:

  • Creation of COVID-19 Health Literacy materials specific to target populations in 14 languages (curricula, community outreach materials, facilitator guide, website, etc.)
  • Increased COVID-19 Health Literacy capacity at local CHW-based organizations
  • Increased COVID-19 knowledge and Health Literacy expertise among 25+ local CHWs
  • Increased COVID-19 knowledge and Health Literacy among thousands of clients/patients/community members
  • Increased incorporation of CLAS standards at over 12 partner organizations
  • Creation of a sustainable local network to promote COVID-19 Health Literacy among lay healthworkers in local safety-net clinics and community-based organizations.
  • Creation of an organizational training curriculum and facilitator guide for CHWs and community partner agencies related to COVID-19 Health Literacy, including information about concepts (health literacy, health equity, and social determinants of health), the COVID-19 virus and recommended practices, COVID-19 vaccines, COVID-19 myths and responses/discussion points, stages of health behavior change, plain talk, motivational interviewing, health coaching, and outreach strategies.
  • Dissemination of materials and evaluation results to the general public.
  • Improvement in COVID-19 preventive health outcomes and in Albuquerque.

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Key Partners

Community Partners

Translated Materials

Below are some examples of documents we had translated to promote language access. 

Contact Info

Terry Schelder

Program Manager

[email protected]