Students Holding Question Markes, What Kind of Future Could Have?

Your Health, Your Body, and You: The Importance of Health Literacy in Reproductive Health

Paige Schildkamp, MPH
Health Educator

It’s Health Literacy Month y’all! What is health literacy, you ask? What does that have to do with reproductive health? And what does that have to do with the Poe Center’s mission? We’re glad you asked! Let’s talk about it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health literacy is “the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves [and others].” This means that people are able to fully understand health information from their care providers or their own research. Full understanding means not just learning or comprehending information, but critically thinking and using it. This happens when you can take health information and apply it to a situation, making informed decisions about what is best for your individual health and in line with your personal values and goals.

doctor talking to patient questions

This is an important part of making all patient care the best it can be. All medicine and healthcare should help make sure that each person reaches their individual health goals and outcomes. And it is especially critical in relation to reproductive health. In fact, research shows that “Health literacy plays an important role in reproductive knowledge and may impact behaviors and outcomes. […] healthcare providers should utilize health literacy best practices now to promote high-quality care for patients.” Best practices in health literacy include making sure the information is:

  • Accurate – medically correct and objective.
  • Accessible – both in terminology and explanation, as well as in format (written, oral, translated materials, etc.).
  • Actionable – gives all the information to allow a person to make decisions/take actions that work best for them.
  • Appropriate – considering the person’s age, ability, cultural/traditional needs, etc.

Student working on computer in classroom

In the world of reproductive health, one in which there are many competing values and potential discomfort in discussing it, accurate and accessible information is even more valuable. Everyone deserves correct and easy to access information about their reproductive health. Therefore, it is the responsibility of healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and public health organizations to make that happen. This is where the Poe Center comes in! Understanding one’s body is the best possible way to start to make the best health decisions for oneself. Our Family Life programs, whether youth attend through a field trip to the Poe Center with an organization or class, a Poe staff visit to their school, a family program or community event, or online, all emphasize an understanding of the body in an age-appropriate way.

We focus on the way bodies change physically, socially, and emotionally as they grow up and go through puberty. As youth get older, we encourage them to use that knowledge, along with their personal values, and to make decisions that are best for their lives and futures. In short, we are providing the (reproductive) health literacy education that has been shown to be pivotal for “ensuring significant health outcomes.”

Think that all sounds awesome and want to get your youth in your life, whether you live or work with them, access to the kind of health education that Poe provides? Get in touch!

Featured Poe Program – Mountain Climbing: Reducing Risk and Setting Boundaries

Participants: 9th-12th Grade
Program Length: 1 hour

Being a young person is tough, and there are many difficult and complex decisions young people have to make – in particular regarding their sexual health. Mountain Climbing helps young people better understand the risks and benefits regarding different decisions they may make concerning their sexual health, including risk management, understanding STIs, forms of FDA approved contraceptives, and communication. Participants will get to participate in age-appropriate interactive activities to reinforce the program content.

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