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Background: Poor health literacy has impeded public health efforts for many years. Several barriers to achieving higher levels of health literacy have been identified and specific ethods to overcome these have been applied: • Role-playing has been shown to be an effective way to communicate ideas, creating audience participation and learner empowerment. • Pictographs, simple drawings depicting stories or principles, have also been used to make health information more comprehendible. • Non-written forms of communication have been especially useful in overcoming language barriers. • A recent Harvard study demonstrated the ability to increase health literacy in low-income populations. Over a three-year period, educational posters and pamphlets were placed in primary care offices throughout Massachusetts. Assessment surveys were mailed to participants before and after the trial. An increase in health competency was most significant in low-income populations. These studies formed the foundation for our current work, which sought to improve health literacy among parents of the Chittenden County Head Start Program. This is a nationally-funded program dedicated to providing free, comprehensive health, nutrition, and social services to families with pre-school children (ages three to five). Participants in the Head Start Program must have low-income to be eligible.


Melissa Barrett, Head Start at Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity

Christa Zehle, MD, University of Vermont College of Medicine


Head Start at Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity


Educational and Community-Based Programs

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Barriers to Health Literacy and Competency Participatory Education in the Champlain Valley Head Start Program