Pledge Program News

10 organizations join Health Confianza’s Health Literacy Pledge Program

SAN ANTONIO – Health Confianza, a communitywide effort providing health literacy training and education to the community, professionals and organizations, has welcomed 10 local organizations to its Health Literacy Pledge Program. The program’s partners will adopt health literacy policies, training and practices that will lead to better health outcomes for the people of San Antonio.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Health Confianza is a partnership between The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Community-based health organizations, which are those that provide some form of health education and/or health service, are often on the front lines of communicating public health issues with the broader community and connecting them with health resources and social services.

Melanie Stone

“The COVID pandemic shed light on our health disparities and the fact that some people do not go to health care systems because of a long-standing distrust in the medical system or an inability to access health providers,” said Melanie Stone, MPH, MEd, assistant director of Community Service Learning at UT Health San Antonio and director of Health Confianza’s Health Literacy Pledge Program. “Instead of using traditional health care for their COVID information, vaccines and education, many people continue to visit their trusted community organizations that provide food, housing and other types of health and wellness services.”

To support these organizations, Health Confianza developed an innovative organizational Health Literacy Pledge Program that equips clinics, social service agencies and community organizations to help clients find, understand and use health information to make well-informed decisions that lead to healthier lives.

The program’s first cohort is made up of: Alamo Community Group, CentroMed, Community First Health Plans, Empower House, Living Positive San Antonio (LPSA), SAMMinistries, San Antonio Vascular and Endovascular Clinic (The SAVE Clinic), Texas A&M University-San Antonio, UT Health Physicians and YWCA San Antonio.

“By becoming pledge partners, these 10 organizations are working together to position themselves to better serve clients and improve health equity in San Antonio,” Stone said.

Until recently, organizational health literacy has been an underutilized public health strategy. However, the federal government has now recognized the role of health literacy to build the public’s trust with health providers, increase access to health care and increase health equity.

At its core, organizational health literacy is intended to help remove barriers to accessing and using health care experienced by clients and patients. This includes cultural and linguistic barriers to health care. For example, organizations do not always have the capability to provide a language or sign language interpreter. Additionally, there may not be a policy in place that requires translation of materials into Spanish or other languages their clients use.

“We want them to be able to say that their staff are using teach-back (an evidence-based communications skill) as one type of skill,” Stone said. “We want their forms in a plain language format. Our goal was to not only ask organizations to take a pledge, but to prepare them with the training and resources needed to make meaningful changes at the organization.”

Health Literacy Pledge Partners

A team of three to five health literacy champions from each of the participating organizations is part of an eight-month learning collaborative that will allow it to learn from field experts and each other to make improvements in their organizational health literacy. After a monthly meeting, the representatives return to their organizations to share knowledge, implement short-term changes and plan for long-term changes.

At the end of the learning collaborative, a June 2023 Health Confianza Symposium will showcase the best practices of each organization. Successful completion of the program will earn the organization a Health Literacy Certificate that they can display in their building, like the health scores that restaurants receive.

Eventually, Stone hopes these certificates will signal to clients that these organizations “prioritize respectful communication and are going the extra mile to ensure their clients will walk away with a better understanding of what to do next,” Stone said.

After this initial pilot of the Health Literacy Pledge Program, Health Confianza plans to open the program more widely to organizations across the community. Look for updated information on the Pledge Program on the Health Confianza website and at the upcoming symposium.



About Health Confianza

Funded by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health grant, Health Confianza is a communitywide initiative created to increase the availability, acceptability and use of COVID-19 health information and services among Hispanics and Blacks living in 22 target ZIP codes in San Antonio. Established in 2020, Health Confianza serves community members through Community Health Clubs and provides health literacy education to health professionals and organizations. Health Confianza’s partners include The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and The University of Texas at San Antonio.

 

 

Health Confianza Feature

SAN ANTONIO (May 13, 2022) — A stalwart team at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) is engaging health care providers, community members and organizations to improve health literacy and increase the public’s trust in health-affirming messages. The project, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, is called “Health Confianza.” (Confianza is the Spanish word for “confidence” and/or “trust.”)

The project began in July 2021 and continues work launched by the city- and countywide COVID-19 Community Response and Equity Coalition.

“The goal of Health Confianza is to increase the availability of, access to and use of health information and services to reduce health inequities among African American and Hispanic populations in San Antonio,” said Jason Rosenfeld, DrPH, MPH, implementing director of Health Confianza at UT Health San Antonio. He is assistant director of global health and assistant professor of the university’s Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics.

Health Confianza targets 22 ZIP codes on the south, west and east sides of San Antonio that, based on available data, had the highest COVID rates, hospitalizations and deaths and the lowest vaccination rates as of June 2021. The team is collaborating with partners to increase vaccinations and improve community members’ understanding of the pandemic.

“Our job is not to tell people what to do,” Dr. Rosenfeld said. “Instead, we are helping people gain access to trustworthy, reliable information that is scientifically accurate, which empowers them to make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.”

The project team views the pandemic as a launching pad into addressing broader health literacy issues such as, for example, cancer prevention through screenings. The strategy is multilayered, featuring:

  • Training for health care workers to improve interpersonal communication, ensuring that conversations are effective, respectful, and culturally and linguistically appropriate.
  • Community health education and outreach to help people identify fact from fiction, help them seek services that are close to them, and increase their reliance on trustworthy media and social media sources of information.
  • Organizational health literacy to help nonprofit and for-profit leaders think about policies and systems they have in place and how those promote health and health literacy among employees and the communities they serve.

“Our goal is to train everyone — health care providers, faith leaders, school leaders, students — to acknowledge people’s perspectives and beliefs,” said Mia Vento, Health Confianza project manager. “We don’t have to agree with what everyone says, but we should at least acknowledge it and recognize that others have valid ways of thinking and believing. Their cultural and normative values are real. With that understanding, we can help people navigate within the system to improve health and well-being.”

Rebuilding trust

The 22 ZIP codes encompass 600,000 people in Bexar County, including groups that have been disenfranchised from health care and information.

“Confianza is confidence, it’s trust, it’s understanding, so Health Confianza is about rebuilding trust and repairing the broken relationship a lot of people have with the health care system,” Vento said. “It’s also about building confidence in the knowledge they have and the choices they’re making.”

Vento said the team has helped nearly 8,000 people in the past few months through vaccine clinics, training and town halls.

UT Health San Antonio is designing and implementing the Health Confianza intervention strategies, training content, messaging, a website and social media presence. The University of Texas at San Antonio, a key collaborator, is designing evaluation strategy to demonstrate the impact of all these projects. Final impacts are expected to be shared in the summer or fall of 2023.

Partners

UT Health San Antonio is designing and implementing the Health Confianza intervention strategies, training content, messaging, a website and social media presence. The University of Texas at San Antonio, a key collaborator, is designing evaluation strategy to demonstrate the impact of all these projects. Final impacts are expected to be shared in the summer or fall of 2023.

Ruth Berggren, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at UT Health San Antonio, and Melanie Stone, also of the humanities and ethics center, are co-investigators. Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN, of the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, is a faculty adviser. Consultative support is also provided by Joel Tsevat, MD, and the Center for Research to Advance Community Health at UT Health San Antonio.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded 72 such grants across the nation. San Antonio is the only Texas city, apart from Dallas, that received the funding. “We are proud to be one of the few here in Texas implementing this program,” Dr. Rosenfeld said.