Health Literacy Wisconsin works to bridge the gap between the health literacy skills of consumers and the demands that the health care system places upon them.  As such, we work to improve health literacy skills of consumers within our 60 adult literacy agencies by infusing health concepts into the adult literacy curriculum.  We also work with health care providers and health care systems to raise awareness of literacy issues, simplify written and oral communication, and create health literacy-friendly environments.  Below, you will find a list of our recent projects.

Interested in partnering with us on a health literacy initiative?  Contact Steve Sparks, Health Literacy Director, at (608) 661-0207 or by email at

Let's Talk About the Flu

Health Literacy Wisconsin (HLW), a division of Wisconsin Literacy, Inc. is raising awareness around health literacy and its connection to health outcomes through a statewide flu prevention program, "Let's Talk About the Flu." The program is funded by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation with support from Walgreens.


During the fall and winter of 2011-2012, HLW delivered 53 one-hour, plain language educational workshops to 921 adults with limited literacy. Workshops were conducted in trusted locations where the target population regularly gathers to study, work, and socialize, such as adult literacy agencies, neighborhood centers, social service agencies, senior centers and homeless shelters. HLW also worked with Walgreens to provide free flu vaccine vouchers for participants, assigned with a unique code for tracking purposes. On-site flu vaccinations, if available, were also tracked. Participants completed a pre- and post test, which included four multiple choice questions related to knowledge of flu prevention basics, and one open-ended question about past flu vaccination.


Check out our 3-minute video highlighting this project.

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Adopting an Easy-to-Read Medication Label

Health Literacy Wisconsin (HLW) is currently working with partners to identify and share strategies for implementing an easy-to-read medication label in Wisconsin. 

In the fall of 2012, new national standards were released that compiled the best evidence about what makes a medication label more understandable to consumers. 

Starting in May of 2013, HLW will begin working two projects that will help identify how best to promote adoption of the standards in Wisconsin.

•    HLW received a $50,000 grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program’s (WPP) Community-Academic Partnership Fund to conduct key informant interviews with stakeholders in the pharmacy industry. In conjunction with two researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, Drs. David Mott and Henry Young, we will evaluate the social, attitudinal and environmental factors affecting the adoption of the new standards. This is a two-year project. For more information, please visit:

•    HLW, in partnership with Dr. Paul Smith, received a $7,500 grant from the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation to develop and deliver twelve plain language educational workshops for seniors. The workshops will address how to read medication labels and how to communicate effectively with pharmacists. We will also collect feedback from participating seniors about medication use, medication labels and barriers to medication adherence. This is a one-year project.

Why Does Medication Labeling Matter?

Studies dating back to the late 1980s have found high rates of patient misunderstanding of dose instructions and warning labels.  Adverse drug events (ADEs) are responsible for 3.6 million office visits per year, 700,000 emergency room visits and 117,000 hospitalizations.

Seniors are at a significantly greater risk for misunderstanding and misuse of medications, because they are more likely to be taking multiple medications, more likely to suffer from low health literacy, and more likely to suffer from complicating factors, such as dementia.

Variability in prescription medication labels leads to further misunderstanding. While the FDA requires certain information to appear on the drug label, national pharmacy chains have developed 31 different label styles, resulting in variability in clarity and complexity of medication use instructions. 

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Health Literacy Workshops: Hands-On, Specialty-Based Training

“The post-training evaluations were incredibly positive and echoed the sentiment that HIV case managers’ clients face health literacy issues on a daily basis. But until the training, case managers could not articulate the issues or identify resources to assist their clients. The skills-building techniques that Health Literacy Wisconsin provided were invaluable.”
- Leslie Anderson, Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Program


What is health literacy? And why does it matter?
Health literacy is about understanding and acting on health information. Seem simple? Think again. Over 90 million Americans struggle with health literacy. People with low health literacy have poorer health outcomes, higher hospital readmission rates, higher health care costs, and higher mortality. In Wisconsin, more than $3.4 billion is wasted annually due to poor health literacy.


Specialty-based workshops
We facilitate one-hour to half-day workshops tailored to your specialty area. We’ll start with a discussion about about health literacy and its
connection to health outcomes, with an emphasis on research and applications specific to your area of practice. From there, you may select up to three one-hour modules: oral communication, written communication, or Health Literacy 101. We’ll facilitate hands-on activities that will allow you to practice skills you can apply to the job tomorrow. Have an idea that would work in your setting? Let us know.


Workshop Topic Areas:
Dental Health
Heart Health
Health Literacy 101
Medical - General
Nutrition & Wellness
Palliative Care
Senior Health


For more information, contact Steve Sparks, Health Literacy Director:


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