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The HEAL Program

Teaching Students Skills to
Take Control of Their Health

HEAL® is a program that increases students’ knowledge and confidence in the healthcare topics they need to take control of their health. It uses a two-fold approach:

1. HEAL Classes: An 8-week course for adults that increases their knowledge of current healthcare topics, medical terminology, and standard processes and practices. Students learn to:

  • Describe symptoms to a doctor

  • Read and understand medication instructions

  • Understand disease prevention

  • Know when to use Urgent Care instead of the Emergency Room

  • Understand medical forms

  • Ask medical staff questions to better understand diagnosis, prescriptions, and next steps

  • Identify lifestyle changes to improve health and practice prevention

  • Understand Advance Medical Directives

  • Know when to get help for mental health issues

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2. Training Medical Professionals: This effort raises awareness about the issue of low

health literacy and gives practical tools and strategies for working with patients. Professionals gain skills in:

  • Identifying patients who find health literacy a challenge

  • Communicating clearly and effectively

  • Creating easy-to-read materials

  • Checking for comprehension

  • Being culturally sensitive


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How Do People Access the Program?

HEAL classes are held at Literacy for Life and at partner organizations across the community. Lessons have been developed for both English Language Learners and native English speakers and can be delivered in-person and online.

How Does This Program Improve Our Community?

Successful implementation of a comprehensive HEAL Program® can ultimately benefit the community through a variety of outcomes, to include:

• Improved patient outcomes
• Reduced hospital admissions and re-admissions
• Reduced length of stay in hospitals
• Reduced use of emergency services
• Reduced healthcare costs
• Improved patient health, safety, and satisfaction
• Improved patient engagement


Literacy is a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than income, employment status, education level and racial or ethnic group.

Low literacy affects more adult Americans than obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and breast cancer combined

Host a HEAL Class!

Make a difference in other citizens' health (and lives!). For more information on hosting, please contact Fiona Van Gheem at or (757) 221-3325.

Become a Licensed HEAL Provider

Would you like to become a licensed provider of the HEAL Program? Learn more at

How Has This Program Changed Lives?

"When I feel sick, I don’t panic and call 9-1-1. I take a deep breath, check my sugar, calm down, and then call the doctor." – Linda

"I have lost 11lbs and I am thrilled! My cardiologist was very happy with my weight loss." – Geraldine

"I am able to ask questions to doctors and nurses to make sure I understand."
– Monde

"I learned how to fill out medical forms. I will now get a regular check-up more often! – Gerald

“The best thing about the HEAL class is that I learned new English words, so now I can describe how I feel when I call the doctor. I didn’t know the difference between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room. Now I know when I need help I can go to Urgent Care if it’s not an emergency. The HEAL class is terrific!”
–  Valeria

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