The Missing Link Between Spirituality and Health Literacy

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Crystal C. Shannon, PhD, MBA
College of Health and Human Services, School of Nursing, Indiana University Northwest, Gary, IN, USA

Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are acknowledged as a primary source of comfort, support, and provision of guidance for many individuals during a time of need. Although they engage the community in a variety of ways to support fulfillment of spirituality and management of life experiences, FBOs may not fully address the healthcare concerns and needs of their parishioners. One such concern is the lack of adequate health literacy and promotion of community-based health.

Health literacy is a major factor influencing the outcomes of community health. It addresses a person’s ability to read, comprehend, and take action on health information. Initially identified as a national and significant healthcare issue in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine, health literacy remains problematic for the vast majority of Americans. As recently as 2016, organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2015) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ, 2016) recommended health care providers continue their efforts for promoting a national action plan to address this serious issue. Recent assessments of national health literacy report only 12% of the population have adequate health literacy levels. Opportunities exist for health care professionals to change community health outcomes by addressing this important issue.

Nurses have a unique role in the support of community based health care. Consistently remaining the most ethical profession and a primary promoter of patient education and disease prevention, nurses are able to influence change in outcomes by the active incorporation and involvement in health promotion methods such as health literacy support. The American Nurses Association (ANA) and National League for Nursing (NLN) acknowledge the importance of faith and spirituality when understanding and addressing a person’s health and illness experiences (ANA, 2016). This also requires practicing nurses to understand the potential influences of the FBO on health outcomes. This presentation will present an integrative look at the connection between FBOs, health literacy, and health outcomes. Additionally, it will provide support for the improved role of FBO’s in health literacy promotion by the active engagement of nurses and other health care personnel. Implications for improved culturally congruent, and spiritually connected community-based healthcare delivery are discussed.