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Rural Health Information Hub

Sustainability Strategies for Health Literacy Programs

There are several sustainability strategies for rural health literacy programs. The Rural Community Health Toolkit also provides information in its Sustainability Strategies section.

Building Capacity and Buy-in

Programs that build capacity within their organization may be able to ensure that activities continue after grant funding ends. Aligning program goals with the organization's mission and goals can increase buy-in from leadership and help embed health literacy principles into organizational standards.

To increase buy-in at the community level to improve commitment and retention in interventions, programs can consider ways to share program successes and progress with funders, partners, and community members. Programs may also want to consider opportunities to share program ownership and find ways for community members to directly contribute to the development and implementation of programming.

Developing a Health Literacy Plan

Organizations with a health literacy focus should consider developing a health literacy plan. A health literacy plan can help ensure the sustainability of programs by coordinating, documenting, and operationalizing implementation steps. Elements of a health literacy plan may:

  • Present the vision of the program
  • Include a statement of commitment from program partners
  • Highlight any existing policies relevant for health literacy
  • Present program goals, objectives, and planned actions
  • Address plans for evaluation, sustainability efforts, and dissemination of findings

Identifying funding and reimbursement strategies

Programs need to identify different sources of funding and reimbursement to ensure ongoing monetary support for staff and program resources. Examples of resources that can be used to fund health literacy programs could include:

  • Reimbursement for services from health insurers
  • Contributions from local or state government
  • Support from using value-based or alternative payment models (APMs)
  • Federal, state, or local agencies that fund rural health literacy programs and research through grants
  • Foundations and nonprofit organizations that fund health literacy through grants, sponsorship, in-kind contributions, volunteerism, and more

Low health literacy has significant economic consequences for insurers, providers, and patients. The leading cause of higher healthcare expenditures for persons with low health literacy is longer hospital stays. Other factors, such as improper use of prescriptions or confusion about treatment plans, can lead to increased hospital and doctor visits, which can also be costly.

To reduce these costs, rural health literacy programs implemented in healthcare settings may want to consider moving towards Alternative Payment Models (APMs), or value-based care that incentivizes providers through reimbursement. By linking payment to high-quality care, APMs can help minimize healthcare costs while also holding providers accountable.

For more information about program funding strategies, visit the Social Determinants of Health in Rural Communities Toolkit page on Funding Strategies.

Resources to Learn More

Creating a Sustainable Health Literacy Business Model
Expert-led podcast discussing the need for sustainability planning and the benefits of developing a business model to promote program longevity.
Author(s): Osborne, H.
Organization(s): Health Literacy Out Loud
Date: 10/2013