Utilizing the healthcare system can be just as confusing, particularly at a larger institution, or for folks with complex medical problems who see multiple providers. Knowing the appropriate person to ask can be just as important as having the right question. And if you happen to see several physicians at different offices, ensuring everyone is communicating with each other can be as challenging as jumping behind the wheel of a 5-speed when all you have ever driven is an automatic! Patients who are ill find navigating and advocating for themselves even more daunting.
I prefer the simplified Wikipedia definition of health literacy: “the ability to read, understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow instructions for treatment.” Of the 3 components, which is most important?? Well, let’s start with the ability to read. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) assesses literacy skills of adults in the U.S. age 16 or older. The 2003 NAAL report found that 14% of Americans have below basic proficiency for prose – severely limited ability to read or write. An even greater number of Americans are functionally illiterate, meaning they can read and write, but their skills that are inadequate "to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level”.
“Health literacy is a critical aspect of health, because it determines the efficiency with which patients seek care and receive treatment. Barriers to healthcare based on poor communication, inadequate information, and instructions that are not understandable, suggest that low health literacy levels may lead to vast inefficiencies.” Report
We can all help. I will do my part by educating my patients, and by disseminating information on the radio (next show on Touch 106.1FM will be Sunday 2/3 @ 9:10am) and via video blogs. How can you help? By not keeping silent!! Talk with your friends and family members about their health and well-being. They may need a little help driving, and just be too afraid to ask!!
One drop of knowledge can ripple through an entire community ~