Partners Convene to Discuss Improving Health Literacy in Diverse Communities

Members of the panel: Carolyn Cannuscio, ScD, assistant professor of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Pennsylvania, Robert Mackes, executive director, Health Sciences Library Association of NJ, Kate Flewelling, executive director National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic.

From nurses and social workers to librarians and parents of special needs children, hundreds of people, as diverse as the communities they serve, came together at the Holiday Inn National Conference Center, East Windsor, on Dec. 5 to discuss the health and literacy challenges experienced by diverse populations and communities, and initiate networking and collaboration to form better partnerships.

The conference’s overall goal was to show the importance of these partnerships in order to improve access to culturally and linguistically appropriate information, resources and programs for meeting health promotion and disease prevention objectives.

Following a keynote address by Cynthia Baur, Ph.D., endowed chair of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, School of Public Health, University of Maryland College Park, on “Building Relationships to Create Health Literacy Partnerships and Healthy Communities,” attendees heard from panelists who successfully implemented and used community partnerships to promote health literacy.

Mary Kearns-Kaplan, adult outreach services coordinator, NJ State Library Talking Book & Braille Center

The conference included a Poster Session featuring programs from 8 agencies, including the NJ State Library Talking Book & Braille Center, and exhibits by 11 non-profit organizations, such as the East Brunswick Public Library, and health care provider Horizon NJ Health.

In the afternoon, participants were offered two sessions of nine different workshops covering a variety of topics, such as “Cultural Competence as a Determinant of Health Equity,” “Sexual Health Cultural Competency for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Providers” and “Health Information Resources for a Multilingual and Multicultural Community.”

Linda Devlin, director of the Camden County Library System, Shyamoli De, adult education/literacy coordinator for the Camden County Library System

Linda Devlin, director of the Camden County Library System, and Shyamoli De, adult education/literacy coordinator for the Camden County System, who is also director of Camden County’s Literacy Volunteers of America, detailed their unique strategy to meet the needs of students with English as a second language through their “Books and Cooks Mobile Culinary Program.” The program was created when library staff realized that Camden City is a US Dept. of Agriculture designated food desert, meaning residents have limited access to affordable, nutritious food. The mobile Books and Cooks kitchen travels among county library branch locations and other sites to meet residents in their communities.

Presenters’ handouts will be available at the NJ Statewide Network for Cultural Competence (NJSNCC) at

The  NJSNCC’s mission is to facilitate access to equitable and quality services for individuals, families and communities through culturally and linguistically appropriate service delivery. Check out their Facebook page at


About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.