It’s National Minority Health Month, and this year’s theme, Better Health Through Better Understanding, calls for increased health literacy for communities of color to allow them to achieve optimal health outcomes. As always, the elephant moderating the conversation about any kind of health equity is racism, the loud and wrong interrupter of progress, actively creating barriers for Black and other people of color to live their best and healthiest lives. And, while racism continues to embed itself into the fabric of our existence, there is still a path to optimal health outcomes for people of color. This year’s theme calls it “understanding,” but the correct word is “control.”
Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals and organizations have the ability to find, understand, and use/provide information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions (HRSA). Simply put, health literacy for people of color is reliant on access, access to information and access to cooperative institutions and providers who will extend equitable services and care. This distinction creates an urgency to put those people and organizations fighting for health equity at the forefront of defining what it means for our communities to have optimal health and determining how resources for this cause are allocated and used.
More often than not, organizers within communities of color are relegated as secondary players, enacting decisions or accepting the ordinances of entities that have historically missed the mark on how true transformative progress is achieved. If health literacy for communities of color is about having the tools to be in control of how we advocate for our care, it’s high time we view our communities as assets as opposed to problems that need to be solved. An asset-based framework will allow us to tap into existing and inherent skills, resources, and salient creativity that is within our communities. We don’t need increased health literacy within our communities, we need increased community competency of those attempting to work in those spaces.