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HEAL - Health Education and Adult Literacy Program

The HEAL (Health Education and Adult Literacy) Program's primary goal is to reduce the rate of medication errors and increase compliance with treatment as prescribed by medical providers to the patient population in Washington Heights and Inwood. This is accomplished by the development and implementation of a health education curriculum that responds to health literacy skills of the population served.

Program Objectives

  • Develop culturally health responsive education material regarding medication adherence using the basic tenets of health literacy
  • Train pediatric providers, family support workers, Head Start providers and community volunteers to appropriately address low health literacy
  • Improve quality of health care for the poor and other underserved communities comprised of diverse ethnic and racial groups
  • Create tools and assessments to address the issue of low health literacy skills among patients
  • Implement the tools and assessment in collaboration with Community Based Organizations and local Head Starts

Health Education Materials:

The curriculum is used by our volunteer parent educator and pediatric providers to discuss topics regarding medication management, over the counter medicines, the use of over the counter medicines home remedies, the appropriate care of upper respiratory infections and the difference between the common cold and the flu. This curriculum is in English and Spanish and includes handouts that parents can take home.

The HEAL curriculum was informed by three focus groups with the collaboration of Alianza Dominicana, Best Beginning Program. Focus groups consisted of 22 community members residing in Washington Heights. Two of the focus groups were held in Spanish and one in English. The findings of the focus groups demonstrate the participants' opinions for each of the topics listed below.

Doctor interaction with patients

  • Explain specific ailments verbally, not with handouts
  • Examine patient thoroughly, ask family questions and listen to concerns or comments
  • Outline a treatment plan for the family and ask for the family's input. Give the family several options


  • General distrust of medications
  • Fear of overdose and side effects
  • When they don't want to give medicine and use something else instead, they don't tell the doctor
  • Want accurate instructions that include a visual and tsp/ml conversion for oral syringes
  • When they pick out over-the-counters (OTC) they ask friends or use previously used OTCs
  • When they go to the doctor for a sick visit they expect medication

Home Remedies

  • For some, a secondary healing source after western medicine does not work. Others use when children too small for OTCs
  • Some don't tell doctor about home remedies because it would insult the doctor/patient relationship. Others don't tell the doctor because they fear a negative response


Trainings are conducted for all pediatric residents at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian (MSCHONY), General Pediatrics faculty, selected1st year medical student, family support workers from Best Beginnings at Alianza Dominicana and staff at local Head Starts. Trainings consist of teaching basic tenets of health literacy in conjunction with cultural competency and effective communication with patients' caregivers. A train the trainer module has been created to teach volunteers how to implement the HEAL curriculum in ACN waiting rooms.


For questions, contact us:


Emelin Martinez
Program Coordinator

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