Sixth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions A Web-based Multilingual Health Information Collection, Healthy Roads Media

C-6 Reaching thousands: Using the internet to improve outreach, collaboration, and information dissemination

A Web-based Multilingual Health Information Collection, Healthy Roads Media
Tuesday, September 23, 2008: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, Minn Marriott, 8th Floor - Wayzata/Gray's Bay
Healthy Roads Media (HRM) is a, web-based resource of free multi-lingual multi-format health information materials. HRM was begun six years ago with the support of a grant from the National Library of Medicine. The goal of the project is to learn how information technology strategies might be helpful in addressing the health information access issues that confront vulnerable populations – specifically low-literacy and non-English speaking persons. While the written format will probably always be the core dissemination format, it often does not provide the information access that is anticipated. This is due to written health information often being written at high reading levels, use of small fonts, limited use of images that might enhance understanding, and poor or no translated versions available for those who do not speak English. Also, people in vulnerable groups are often challenged with literacy issues. HRM continues to explore an increasing number of enhanced formats – audio, multimedia, web-video and iPod video – that may help provide meaningful health information access to diverse populations. The information resources now include materials in 18 languages and over 100 topics. About 25,000 files are accessed/downloaded each week by people from all over the world. Having the same content available in multiple formats (all except one that can be downloaded for use off-line) provides those who are trying to assist hard-to-reach groups the resources that will fit the particular setting in which they are working. Feedback to the HRM website indicates that the materials are useful in very diverse sites including – hospitals, correctional facilities, clinics, schools, public libraries, fitness centers, adult education classes, senior centers, public health departments, refugee resettlement agencies, mutual aid groups, home health agencies, ESL classes, nursing schools, among others. In addition, the resources are also being accessed by many individuals and organizations outside the United States including outreach work by the U.S. military in Iraq.

The growth of HRM has been through a variety of partnerships – both content partners and funding partners –where the collaborative work involved the development and evaluation of new materials. One evaluation indicator that HRM may be a useful strategy is that it appears to empower users to ask more questions. Health literacy levels has been found to be discouragingly low across all groups but when language and reading challenges are added, health literacy is usually even more limited. By providing a short understandable piece of health information, HRM materials may be providing a framework of understanding from which the person can ask questions. Without it, people may not have the basic understanding of the health topic from which to even begin to ask questions. This issue deserves more study because if providing a brief health information message (in formats that provides meaningful understanding) encourages people to seek further information, then this may be a widely adaptable strategy to improve health literacy across many groups. Improved health literacy is key to improved health status.

Lessons learned are that the development and maintenance of high quality multilingual health information resources that meet broad basic information needs of diverse populations, requires coordination, collaboration and sharing by multiple partners. Both the organizations who produce these materials as well as those who need these information resources, tend to be financially fragile. This leads to short term projects that may not be high quality, are not shared outside a particular local area and cannot be maintained. There are multiple duplicate efforts rather than a clear strategy to help facilitate a way to build upon each other's work. These will continue to be challenges but the internet is a tool that has been and will continue to be helpful in helping to address some of these issues.

  • HRM Materials_ID1471.pdf (62.8 kB)
  • Presentation Information:

    Program: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions
    Primary Category: Culturally Competent Care
    Subtopics: Emergency preparedness, Access in underserved communities, eg, rural, urban, Disparity reduction, Health literacy, Translation, Patient education, Training trainers

    Region Addressed by Presentation: National
    Organization: Other Educational Setting
    Population/Demographic: low-literacy , non-English speakers
    Keywords: information technology, health informatics, multimedia, video, web


    Mary Alice Gillispie, MD , Healthy Roads Media, Bozeman, MT
      Healthy Roads Media
      717 North Aster Avenue
      Bozeman MT, USA 59718

      Phone: 406-556-5877
      Fax: 406-586-2358
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Dr. Gillispie has an engineering degree from Michigan State and a medical degree from Wayne State. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians and a Principal Investigator with the Public Health Institute. Dr. Gillispie has been involved with computer-based patient/health education research and development for over twenty years. She was a primary care physician and public health officer in community with a large and diverse refugee population. She has presented at national and international conferences on topics related to consumer health informatics, health literacy and diversity. Dr. Gillispie has served on a variety of federal health information technology panels and as a NIH grant reviewer. She was the originator of Healthy Roads Media and has served as the project director and technology developer for the past six years.