Health literacy refers to the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Health Literacy Month, observed each October, aims to close the gap that exists between the way healthcare is communicated and the ability of most people to understand the information. According to the National Action to Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly 9 out of 10 adults don’t fully understand routine health information. People who have difficulty understanding how to prevent and manage their health are more likely to skip needed medical treatment, go to the emergency room more often, and tend to make mistakes with their medications.
To build healthier communities, we need to work together. With clear communication, we can help people adopt healthy behaviors, follow medical advice, and understand their health insurance.
Health Literacy Ideas for Organizations and Professionals
Develop and implement jargon-free, understandable written, verbal, and visual health information.
Use a variety of mediums to make information about health relevant and easily accessible.
Provide individuals with the necessary resources to understand the health care system and receive the most appropriate care.
Implement and enhance educational opportunities.
Identify and implement effective strategies and actions to lessen the burden on individuals to navigate the fragmented health care system.
Invest in language and cultural resources.
Health Literacy Ideas for Individuals and Families
Prepare for your doctor appointment by bringing a list of your symptoms and when they started, as well as a list of your current medications. Be sure to write down your questions and be prepared to take notes.
Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to use familiar language and write down the information.
If you something is confusing or unclear, don't be afraid to ask questions and request material written in plain language.
Make sure you know who to call with any questions you may have after you get home.
Attend health education programs at your public library, hospital, community centers, or faith-based organizations.
Request that local schools teach kids about health education and deliver clear health messages to kids, like proper hand washing techniques.
People make choices about their health every day, which is why understanding the information they hear, read, and see is essential for making responsible, well-informed decisions. Each of us has a role to play in eliminating communication barriers and improving how the health information is delivered.
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