Opportunities and Challenges of Community Health Partnerships

Welcome to our asynchronous discussion about building partnerships with ABE, ASE, and ESL programs with community health partnerships. Join our panel guests as we continue our discussion for the next three days. Our goal is to present a variety of models and resources for building local partnerships. 

The presenters are:

  • Dr. Marcia Drew Hohn, Independent Literacy and Health Consultant, former Director of Massachusetts Northeast Region System for Adult Basic Education (ABE) Support, and Director of the Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute
  • Rob Sheppard, Senior Director of Adult Programs, Quincy Asian Resources, Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Dr. Maricel Santos, ESL and Health Literacy Associate Professor, San Francisco State University

To get us started, I'd like to hear your questions. If you were able to attend the webinar, let me know what you would like to focus on. If you didn't have a chance to participate in the webinar, what questions do you have about community health and adult education partnerships do you have? 

We're anxious to get started, so let's get the questions going. 

The LINCS Moderating Team.




One of the key areas to successful partnerships between adult education programs and community health organizations include training. I invite you to check out this information http://wisconsinliteracy.org/health-literacy/resources/training-programs.html and post some questions to our guests. Michele Erickson is a wealth of knowledge and experience and is available to provide feedback. 

In addition to the training resoruces,  Wisconsin Literacy also includes curricula. http://wisconsinliteracy.org/health-literacy/resources/curricula.html.

Take a look around, let's talk about how you can use these resources with your students. What resources are you familiar with?

Kathy and presenters here, I appreciated the comments and resources shared in the Webinar. The curricula and training materials posted on the site above are also very helpful. Thanks. I can see how this initiative provides great promise and, apparently, very positive results in urban areas. I wonder what major challenges you have overcome and what additional challenges might occur in very remote regions, where populations and health providers are widely scattered over hundreds of miles. Do you have any experience using distance learning in different formats, for example? Leecy

Leecy, you bring up an important issue with rural health challenges.  Wisconsin Health Literacy works with literacy agency throughout the state in both urban and rural settings.  We often rely on our rural member agencies' relationships and networks to help us connect to health care partners or services in rural areas.  County health departments can also be a good source of information as to where and how people access health services in the county.  We often connect with a literacy tutor or program staff that also may have an interest in health or is a retired healthcare provider. These are the individuals that we then train to help us deliver workshops in remote areas we can't get to easily.  We might use distance learning (webinars) in training the trainer or workshop presenter, but we have not used it to deliver the health literacy intervention to community members.



Thanks for the info, Michelle. I am reminded again and again of how useful volunteers can be in so many areas of our field, including this one. One of these days, I'm writing a grant to fund the management of a significant volunteer program in this region to serve adults. I wonder what experience you and others in this discussion have using volunteers to promote collaboration and instruction to promote better health and health literacy.

The dynamics among health agencies in this very rural region vary dramatically, with many rural residents living on Reservations, which are served by their own health staff. There isn't a whole lot of collaboration between providers on and off Reservations although Adult Ed programs serve everyone in the area. However, we never say "never..." Leecy

Leecy, volunteer contributions in promoting better health through health literacy often come through way of the volunteers who donate time at a literacy agency or other social service agency.  They are the volunteers that have direct contact with learners or clients and encourage participation in health literacy interventions.  Sometimes they are volunteer tutors or agency volunteers that help run programs.  When it comes to promotion of health literacy interventions to the healthcare field, we have had more experience with program directors or executive directors who have established relationships with other healthcare providers in their community.  They are usually in a better position to set up opportunities to meet with them and learn about how they can work together.  I hope you get that grant written and funded for volunteer management!!


In the ABE program and Health Center webinar on Monday, Michele Erickson and Marcia Hohn, each shared some great resources for building ABE and CHC partnerships, for funding them, and for health-related curriculum. Marcia and Michele, could you post links to them here, and perhaps describe some of them?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP



David, Kathy Tracey has provided the link to resources on our Wisconsin Health Literacy website above in her opening post and I have some PDF versions of curricula resources that are not linked on our website, but I can share with the discussion group.  There are some criteria Wisconsin Health Literacy (WHL) has to follow in terms of how others would use these materials, as they include photos that we have purchased and only we have the rights to reproduce.  Interested participants would need to use them as is, with the Wisconsin Health Literacy logo and credit of appropriate sponsorship.  If people are interested in editing these resources to fit the needs of their own states, then that would require a conversation with our WHL staff, so that the integrity of our content would remain or credit could be given where appropriate. I am not familiar with how to attach documents on this discussion format, or if that is possible.  I will wait for yours and/or Kathy's guidance on how best to share the PDFs.



at opendoorcollective.org, you will find many resources for teaching health in ABE and building partnerships.  Under "resources" is a one page summary with live links to approaches, curricula and teaching materials for integrating health content into ABE (includes ESOL).  Under ODC papers, is "Improving the Health of ABE Learners", which discusses ABE and Community Health Center Partnerships with examples of how four partnerships operate and are funded with a variety of health care providers. The ODC Literacy & Health Issues group is actively working on creating more partnership examples, resources, funding venues and ways to connect to other fields of work.  If you are interested in getting updates from this group, please contact me directly at mdrewhohn@aol.com 


I'd like to draw your attention to a few LINCS resources for teaching health literacy in ABE, ASE, and ESL classes. I invite you to look through these. Which ones fit your needs? Are they new to you? How can you use these in your program? 

ESL Participation as a Mechanism for Advancing Health Literacy in Immigrant Communities: https://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-819
Staying Healthy for Beginners (Student Workbook) https://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-814
Staying Health for Beginners  (Teachers Workbook) https://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-770
A Prescription Is Not Enough: Improving Public Health with Health Literacyhttps://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-883
Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit https://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-724
Your Health: The Science Insidehttps://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-518

There are many more resources. Simply go to the Resource Section on the front page of LINCS and search for your desired topic. 



We are a small non-profit with big accomplishments and would like to help others address low health literacy in their communities.

The HEAL Program's two-pronged approach to health literacy is unique and effective. The HEAL classes (available at 3 levels of ABE/ESL) focus on patient engagement and empowerment. They cover important topics such as appropriate use of emergency services, how to read prescription labels and the importance of prevention and screenings. The classes have been proven to increase confidence and knowledge.  In addition, we're heartened by the many success stories we hear from our program participants. The HEAL presentations engage medical providers in a discussion about health literacy and raise awareness of the importance of effective and respectful communication with patients who struggle with basic literacy. The program has been delivered to hundreds of medical people and an amazing 100% of those who responded to a survey said they would recommend the program to a colleague.

Here is a short video about HEAL.

One way an ABE program can get started with health literacy is through project-based learning.  The program might ask a particular group or class of learners about the health topics they are interested in knowing more about and then have them choose one.  That learner group can then learn more about that health topic through internet searches, visits to library, visiting a local health providers and/or using the many wonderful resources identified in this discussion.  Students can make posters to share what they have learned with other students in the program.   I have found that learners really respond to having a choice about the health topic and sharing what they learned.  It increases their sense of self and collective efficacy.  In my experience, diet, nutrition, healthy eating, weight control as well as stress and depression are perennially popular topics.  Getting fat in America is a constant theme about ESOL students. This is a way to dip toes into health literacy.  Is anyone doing this already or know about such projects?


Thaniks for sharing this information. If you haven't already considered this, perhaps writing a practitioner's article in the COABE journal may help more people follow your lead. And thiere is the COABE conference comping up. ;-) If you consider submitting an article, let me know how we can help.