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The University of Tennessee

UT Extension / Family and Consumer Sciences

Frequently Used Tools:

Health & Safety - Public Health Education Other Resources for FCS Agents

The state of Tennessee ranks 39th in the country for overall health status. Our State ranking has improved over previous years; however, we are still near the bottom. Why? There are many reasons for our state’s poor health such as culture, poor health access, poverty, limited education, lack of health insurance and unhealthy lifestyles. But a prevailing reason is low health literacy. Health literacy is the ability of individuals to obtain, interpret and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate and cost effective decisions that enhance health and health care.

The Surgeon General has identified health literacy as the “currency for staying healthy.” The American Medical Association has called health literacy a hidden health problem of the health care system. The Institute of Medicine has identified health literacy as a national health priority. The Council of State Governments recognizes “the major obstacle to achieving a more informed and active health care consumer is the lack of basic health literacy.”  Low health literacy affects health care by increasing costs, compromising health care quality and limiting health care access.

The challenge to our state is how to move Tennessee health statistics from the bottom to the top. As the statewide outreach unit of the University of Tennessee, Extension’s Community Health Education Program strategy is to address Tennessee’s low health literacy and rising health care costs through community-based health education. The goal is to improve health literacy by teaching Tennesseans to be smart health care consumers who:

  • Practice health protecting behaviors
  • Can access scientifically accurate and culturally appropriate health information
  • Take advantage of preventive care
  • Use medical services appropriately and cost effectively

One of the greatest strengths of this public health education program is its capacity to reach large numbers of people in communities across the state with research-based information and evidence-based community programs. This is done through our statewide community education network of UT Extension educators working in UT Extension offices in all 95 counties. These community educators, trained by the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences faculty with expertise in community health education, environmental health, nutrition and pharmacy, implement the program with a vast network of public and private partnerships in communities across the state.

Learn more about why TN ranks 39th in health:

Partnerships Promoting a Healthier Tennessee

UT Center for Community-based Health Initiatives Poison Prevention Team Up Tennessee
TN Arthritis Education Partnership Medication Literacy Partnership TN Asset Abuse Toolkit

Current Programs

Self Care of Chronic Diseases

Arthritis Self-Help Program Tai Chi: Healthy Choice for People with Arthritis Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
Walk with Ease Dining with Diabetes Choices for Better Bone Health

Health Promotion

Tennessee Shapes Up Health Works! TN Nutrition & Consumer Education Program
It's Fall...Get the Flu Shot Not the Flu! Poison Help 1-800-222-1222
Be Poison Safe Tennessee!

Be MedWise Tennessee!

Walk Across Tennessee

Tennessee Latino Health Access Coalition

Protect Your Family's Health with Immunizations
Master Your Body LivingWellWithChronicConditions TakeChargeOfYourDiabetesProgramLogo
Team Up Tennessee
Breast & Cervical Education & Screening Program Body & Soul Living Well
Protect the Skin You're In Cooking for a Lifetime HPV Toolkit

Worksite Health Promotion

Navigating Your Health Care System An Employee Health Literacy Program

For more information about the UT Extension Health & Safety programs, please contact your local County Extension FCS Agent .