Health Literacy In-Service

February 18, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Basic Literacy, Class, Community, ESOL, Family Learning, Lesson Plans, Teaching, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | 2 Comments
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Imagine this scenario: You are in a country in which you do not know any of the languages spoken. You are experiencing severe stomach pain, and you go to the hospital. You cannot understand the doctors, and you struggle to fill out the paperwork you are given by the receptionist. Soon, you find yourself on an operating table. You are given some kind of anesthesia. When you wake up, you have stitches on your lower abdomen, and you are made to understand that something has been removed. You go home without ever having an idea of what YOUR body is now missing.

Kate Singleton related this true story during her Health Literacy In-Service at the James Lee Community Center on February 9. Ms. Singleton, a former ESOL instructor herself, had a student who went to the hospital with stomach pain and had her gallbladder removed without the student realizing what was happening.

As ESL teachers, most of us have come across students who have difficulty receiving adequate health care because of limited English comprehension. In response to this widespread problem, Ms. Singleton, from INOVA Fairfax Hospital, is working through a grant to give health literacy presentations to ESOL speakers. She was kind enough to give this same presentation to LCNV volunteers, staff, and guests. The content of the In-Service included the challenges faced by ESOL learners in finding viable health care options, the effect of lower quality of health care for ESOL community members on society as a whole, and how ESOL teachers can help their students find the health care they need.

Ms. Singleton left the audience with two important take home messages. The first is that everyone has a right to an interpreter at health care facilities that receive federal payments for Medicare and Medicaid. The second is that patients should always ask for a financial counselor. Subsequently, important phrases for students to learn during health units include “I need an interpreter, please” and “I’d like to speak with a financial counselor, please.”

Additionally, Ms. Singleton handed out a practice Medical History Form (which I have already used as a teaching tool in my classes) and a list of Health Care Tips for ESL students. To view the forms simply click on the titles.

Thank you Kate Singleton for your informative presentation!

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please use the “Leave a Comment” feature to post your thoughts.

Kerrin Epstein, AmeriCorps Member and Lead Teacher


  1. I appreciated having the health resources information at hand when my student showed up to class complaining of a pain in her face. We went through the list and found possible dental and doctor services for her. She followed up and has had treatment.

    Thank you for the presentation.


    • That’s tremendous! We’re so glad this was so relevant to your student’s needs. We are looking forward to having speakers just for students again this fall with our Empowering Speaker Series. Check out the AmeriCorps blog post highlighting how it works:


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