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Honoring a leader: teacher and scholar Christina Zarcadoolas is 2018 Doak Health Literacy Champion

Christina Zarcadoolas, Ph.D. at one and the same time is a 1980s “first generation” health literacy scholar and one of today’s innovators both in the US and globally. To honor her lifetime achievements, Health Literacy Media is pleased to announce that she will be awarded the 2018 Cecilia and Leonard Doak Health Literacy Champion Award.

Christina Zarcadoolas
Christina Zarcadoolas, Ph.D.

Over the course of her career, Christina has focused on understanding how people make meaning from information about health, science, the environment, and in relationship to their lived experiences – the social and political forces they navigate on a daily basis.

“Christina Zarcadoolas is one of the small number of individuals who set the stage for the entire field of health literacy,” said Dr. Steve Pu, chairman of the board of directors of Health Literacy Media, “without her foundational work and theory building, organizations like Health Literacy Media might never exist. We all owe her our sincere thanks.”

Her critically acclaimed book, “Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action,” (co-authored with Andrew Pleasant, PhD., and Dr. David S. Greer, Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2006) was one of the first in-depth scholarly works on health literacy. The book presented an elaborated model of health literacy informed by linguistic theory, cognitive science, and media studies. Health literacy, the book argued, must address fundamental literacy, science literacy, civic literacy, and cultural literacy. A review of the book in the New England Journal of Medicine referred to it as "required reading" for public health professionals responsible for developing new tools for communicating with patients and the general public. Her work over the last decade has addressed public health literacy and its powerful role in how people and communities respond to complex emergencies.

In both her teaching and writing Dr. Zarcadoolas has seen health literacy as an “equal opportunity endeavor.” To bridge the gaps between health and science, experts and the public must identify and address the strengths and limitations of all parties involved. Her teaching and writing are a testament to this. Among the institutions where she has left her mark are Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Hunter College, and City University of New York. She is also the founder and creator of the Health Literacy Lab at

Health Literacy Media established the Cecilia and Leonard Doak Health Literacy Champion Award to honor individuals and organizations who make outstanding contributions in health literacy and whose work focuses on bridging the gap between the skills of people and the demands of the health care system.

The award, named after two other founders of the health literacy movement, is presented to a single individual or organization each year and recognizes those who exhibit the highest standards of excellence, dedication and accomplishment over a sustained period of time, and who are creative and highly skilled pioneers in the health literacy field. The award recognizes rigorous work and celebrates collaborative efforts to shape a path to good health.

Previous Health Literacy Media Doak awardees include: Dr. Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General of the United States; Michael Villaire, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Advancement, Dr. Andrew Pleasant, who has since joined Health Literacy Media; Dr. Cynthia Baur; Dr. Ruth Murphey Parker; Dr. James Kimmey, past president of the Missouri Foundation for Health and a key founder of Health Literacy Missouri; and Dr. Rima Rudd.

Health Literacy Media will present the award at The Thaxton, 1009 Olive St., St. Louis, MO, 63101 on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. (CDT).

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Allen Todd, HLM Director of Partnerships and Initiatives at (314) 361-9400 or


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