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Health Literacy Program Featuring State Experts set for Oct. 30 on USM Hattiesburg Campus

Wed, 10/25/2023 - 03:47pm | By: David Tisdale


The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) College of Arts and Sciences and School of Media and Communication will host a panel discussion/presentation that will include leaders in healthcare and research from across the state, titled “Health Literacy” Monday, Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Center, rooms 218 A/B on the Hattiesburg campus. Admission is free and the members of the university and local communities are invited, particularly students and faculty from programs in health, communications, and the sciences. 

The sponsors for this event include the USM College of Arts and Sciences and the USM Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Dr. Jae-Hwa Shin, professor of public relations and Strategic Communication Program lead in the School of Media and Communication, will serve as moderator for the panel discussion.

This panel will discuss health literacy defined as the ability to understand the degree to which individuals can find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others, or the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to meet those goals. Further, health literacy involves the use of plain language, using your audience’s preferred language and communication channels, and using culturally and linguistically appropriate language.

The panel will also place emphasis on context of health literacy, particularly the norms, practices and working environments of the people involved. Some questions which will be addressed include, “What are some social determinants associated with health literacy? Is health education a prominent priority among K-12 educators and the state's educational leadership in Mississippi? Are health literacy-based health information websites routinely integrated into the curriculum for public high school students across the state? Do you anticipate variations in research findings when comparing different Mississippi counties, urban areas, and rural regions if a standardized health literacy test were to be administered? Do you have experience indicating that eight out of ten Mississippi residents frequently struggle to understand the instructions for taking prescribed medication from a pharmacy? How can strategic communication serve as the cornerstone for tailoring health materials to cater to the unique needs of specific patient and caregiver groups, such as pregnant women, new mothers, patients recently diagnosed with conditions like cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and their caregivers? Is it feasible to employ strategic communication, along with new media and technologies like AI, to customize health literacy materials for vulnerable populations?”

With health literacy directly related to health outcomes, the panel will provide insights into what progress has been made and what more can be done in this area, said Dr. Shin. “It is important to understand and take action on health literacy, especially in underserved Mississippi communities and to understand the connections between low health literacy statistics and outcomes,” Dr. Shin continued. The impact of health literacy is so significant to health disparities or equity, and thus health outcomes. Accordingly, health literacy should be properly addressed even before health disparities or equity is discussed.”

Panelists and their presentations include:

  • Dr. Daniel Edney, Officer, Mississippi State Department of Health: “Current State of Health Literacy in Mississippi”
  • Dr. Robert Logan, former Senior Scientist, National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health: “Health Literacy’s Evidence Base for the Quadruple Aim”
  • Dr. Alex Flynt, Program Director, Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (MS-INBRE) & USM Associate Professor, Cellular and Molecular Biology, College of Arts and Sciences: “MS-INBRE: Building a Pipeline of Mississippi Students for Biomedical Careers”
  • Dr. David Buys, State Health Scientist & Associate Professor,  Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Mississippi State University: “Considering Unconventional Approaches to Improving Health Literacy: A Case Study on Film” 
  • Dr. Jennifer Lemacks, Director, Mississippi INBRE Community Engagement and Training Core & Professor and Associate Dean for Research, USM School of Health Professions, College of Nursing and Health Professionals: “Lessons for Health Literacy through Tele-Nutrition Center”

Dr. Shin further noted that USM is working to enhance health literacy and equity through interdisciplinary research, strategic communication, and community engagement practices. “This panel discussion is one of our efforts to make that happen,” she said.

For more information on this event, contact Dr. Shin; learn more about the USM School of Media and Communication.