Thursday, December 23, 2010
Literacy continues to be an issue

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

One of the things that I like to do is put information into historical perspective. We frequently discuss just how well our children learn in our schools and we need to be aware of the fact that the expectations in this area have varied throughout history. For example, James Bowen addressed literacy rates in England in the book, "A History of Western Education." He noted that in the early 1500's only about 1% of the population could read. Within 100 years, however, the rate increased to about 50%. There are several definitions of literacy. One is the ability to do some reading and writing in your native language. That is a very basic definition and it assumes very little in the way of skills. If we look at the history of that limited ability to read, the figures are interesting. In 1870 only 80% of individuals could do that. The number increased to 89% by 1900. By 1940 it was at 97%. It stayed at that level for the next 20 years. Then between 1960 and 1970, it moved to 99%. It has remained at that level ever since. However, we all know that just reading basic information is not acceptable in today's world. For that reason we have created a term called functional literacy. This term was created by the U.S. Army in World War II. It was defined as being able to read at a fifth grade level which is the level at which Army manuals were written. Later on UNESCO (the educational branch of the United Nations) changed the definition a little. They defined functional literacy to mean that someone had the reading and writing skills to be able to take part in normal activities in their society. Using that definition 14% of the adult population is at the "below basic" level for writing literacy; 12% are at the "below basic" level for reading literacy; and 22% are at that level for math literacy. That compares to the 99% of the population that is covered under the old definition of just being able to read and write in your native language. There are consequences of being illiterate that people do not realize. These consequences include problems with filling out an employment application, following written instructions, reading a newspaper article, reading traffic signs and understanding a bus schedule. Math illiteracy might make it hard to balance a checkbook, shop for the cheaper price, calculate discounts and calculate tips. Functional illiteracy also severely limits interaction with information and communication technologies. This might include using a personal computer and a mobile phone efficiently. There is also correlation between crime and functional illiteracy. In the early 2000's, it was estimated that 60 percent of adults in federal and state prisons in the U.S. were functionally or marginally illiterate. Also, about 85 percent of juvenile offenders had problems associated with reading, writing and basic mathematics. It is clear that literacy has been a problem throughout history. In the past, literacy expectations were lower and as society has changed, so have the expectations. This is an issue but we have not determined how to correct it.

Family Caregiver Training offered The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series several times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. LifeCare at Lofland Park in Seaford will host the training on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011, from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. This program includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. This training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by LifeCare. Pre-registration is required by Jan. 14. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee, branch office coordinator, at 854-9788 or 1-800-272-3900.

Support the Heart and Stroke Gala The 2011 Southern Delaware Heart and Stroke Gala, "An Evening in Oz," will be held on Saturday, March 19, 2011, at the Sheraton Dover Hotel. The annual event benefits the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Volunteers are actively planning the gala. Volunteers work on committees, including sponsorship, publicity, auction, hospitality, multimedia, website, entertainment, casino, photography and decorating. To find out more about sponsorship or to volunteer, contact Karen Gritton, special events director at or 286-5705. You may also contact the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association's Delaware office toll free at 877-750-4276.

Dr. Blaylock joins La Red La Red Health Center announces the addition of a full-time family practice physician to its team of health care professionals at the new satellite site in Seaford. The recruitment of a full-time physician allows La Red Health Center to serve even more clients at the 1,800-square-foot Seaford site that opened in August. Similar to the center's Georgetown location, the Seaford office participates in most local employer sponsored health insurance plans and offers sliding fee scale discounts to uninsured individuals who qualify. Dr. Blaylock, certified by the American Board of Family Practice, is a 1980 graduate of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He completed post graduate training at San Bernadino County Medical Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, both in California. He has worked in community health settings starting from his days in the 1980s as chief of staff and medical director at Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital in Oklahoma and later spent 15 years handling urgent care services at Riverside Medical Clinic in California. He also rose as a leader among his peers serving as district director of the California Academy of Family Physicians. He came to Delaware with his wife, June, a native of Sussex County. The Seaford Satellite Site is located in the Professional Park at 1340 Middleford Rd., in Seaford, and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office is accepting new patients of all ages. For more information, call 628-7752 or visit

Diabetes education program offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a four-session diabetes educational program on Jan. 5, 12, 19 & 26, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the hospital. The cost of the four-session program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management.Our goal is to give you the self-management skills to control your diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. Pre-registration is required prior to attending classes. To register and to obtain more information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Free cancer support group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a general cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. The ongoing monthly support group meets in the first floor resource library of the Cancer Care Center on the third Monday of each month. The next meeting takes place on Jan. 21, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register for this program. All support groups offered at The Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. For more information, visit

Hospice offers support group Delaware Hospice's Bereavement Counselor, Carol Dobson, MSW, will lead an eight-week support group for adults on "Grieving the Loss of a Loved One," Jan. 19 through March 9, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., at Grace United Methodist Church, 7 S. King St., Georgetown. Any adult who would like to give and receive support from others experiencing a loss are invited to attend. Many people find that sharing reduces the loneliness and heartaches of grief.Topics discussed are what to expect when grieving, mistaken ideas about grieving, managing and coping with grief, family interactions, spiritual issues, how to handle special days and holidays and ways to find a renewed sense of purpose. There is no fee for this service which is provided as a community outreach by Delaware Hospice. Registration is requested by calling Carol Dobson, MSW, at 379-6069, or by emailing,

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. The program is facilitated by Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center professional staff - Terri A. Clifton, MS, NCC, Cancer Care coordinator; Mary Brown, RN, DSN, manager Cancer Care Center; and Wendy Polk, nutritionist - with assistance from Lois Wilkinson, DBCC special projects manager, who helps facilitate the program at Bayhealth. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Competition to improve school meals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge to improve school meals and the health of children across the nation through the creation of exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus. The competition will draw on the talents of chefs, students, food service professionals, and parents or other community members working together to develop tasty, nutritious, kid-approved foods. There will be a grand prize chosen by the judging panel as well as a Popular Choice winner based on public voting. The judges will also choose award winners for the top two recipes in each category. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs. The top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit The deadline for recipe submissions is Dec. 30. For more information, visit

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program. The location rotates each week of the month according to the following schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rte. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro.
"New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required.There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.