Help is on the way for Nova Scotians who struggle with understanding doctors’ orders, prescription directions or even hospital directions. Literacy and health organizations in western Nova Scotia are gathering today, June 5, to focus on improving adult health literacy. “We know that literacy is one of the most important determinants of health,” said Education Minister Karen Casey. “Research tells us that people with lower literacy levels often have poorer health. They may not take medication properly or understand how to manage their own health care. We’ve made health literacy a part of our adult learning program and with this symposium, we will explore ways to get this important information to the community at large.” The Department of Education is partnering with South Shore Health, South West Health and Annapolis Valley Health as part of the first health-literacy symposium in the region for adult learning networks, community health boards and other partners. Health literacy refers to a person’s ability to get, understand and use health information to improve health. The group will discuss links between literacy levels and overall health and explore ways to share information about health literacy with communities and health-care practitioners. The departments of Health and Education launched a health literacy initiative in May 2005. Health literacy is now part of the curriculum of the adult learning program offered by the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning. The program offers access to easy-to-understand materials to help improve literacy and overall health. Recognizing that only a small number of Nova Scotians are accessing the information, various health and literacy partners in western Nova Scotia are meeting to identify other ways to share materials with health-care practitioners, other partners and the public. “The ability to access, read and understand health information is a vital skill in today’s information-driven society,” said Michelle Helliwell of the Eastern Kings Memorial Community Health Centre. “We have to look at ways to build the capacity within communities to recognize and act on health literacy issues. This workshop will create links between those working to help Nova Scotians improve their literacy, and those working with community health boards. It’s an important first step.” The Symposium will take place at the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.