October is National Health Literacy Month

Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Health literacy is essential for successful access to care and use of services, self-care of chronic conditions, and maintenance of health and wellness because people with low health literacy:

Are less able to care for their chronic conditions
Use more healthcare services
Have higher mortality rates
More likely to engage in unsafe or inappropriate use of prescription or over the counter medications
Are less likely to use preventative care
Have difficulty navigating the health care system

We challenge you to become “Health Literacy Heroes”
Being a “Health Literacy Hero” is about taking action and finding ways to improve health communication. In October, be a Health Hero:

Spread the word about this emerging public health issue that affects all age, race and income levels
Raise awareness about why health literacy matters
Empower individuals to take control of their health care
Partner with others to connect people to resources and communicate clear health messages in ways that EVERYONE can understand

Health information should be:

Accurate- should be accurate but presented in ways everyone can understand
Accessible- is this info where people can see it, easy to read, have a main message
Actionable-give some background but make sure recommendations are made so people know what to do with the information they have been given

Poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level and race
90 million people (nearly half of the adult population) lack health literacy skills needed to understand and act on health information and health system demands
One out of five American adults read at a 5th grade level or below, and the average adult reads at an 8th or 9th grade level, yet most health care materials are written above the 10th grade level
Limited health literacy increases the disparity in health care access among exceptionally vulnerable populations (such as racial/ethnic minorities and elderly)
Adults living below the poverty level have lower average health literacy than those living above the poverty threshold (In adults who receive Medicaid, 30% have below basic health literacy)
Research suggests that people with low literacy make more medication errors, are less able to comply with treatments, lack the skills needed to successfully negotiate the health care system and are at higher risk for hospitalization than people with adequate literacy skills

Read More