Practical Ways To Improve Health Literacy

Keyword: health education for communities

Health literacy is a term that refers to the gathering of health knowledge while a patient learns how to use it. Using health literacy determines a patient’s treatment options, informing them that they have various choices. This is why health education for communities is important because making informed choices is impactful to someone’s mental and physical health. Some people do not understand their condition or illness well enough to know what the doctor is talking about.

Patients have to be able to apply information about their health when they go home after their appointment. 65% of adults have an intermediate or at least a competent level of health literacy according to a 2003 study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) as measured by this study. If a patient does not understand what the doctor tells them to do, this makes low health literacy cause worse health outcomes and less use of healthcare services. Factors such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status create situations that induce poor health care literacy. 

Nine out of 10 adults in the United States lack the necessary skills to help maintain their health while preventing disease. When a patient gets the proper health information they do not necessarily know how to communicate that they understand what the doctor has said. They need to use normal, plain language where the important points come first. 

Many patients with literacy issues do not tell the doctor they are seeing that they cannot read. It is necessary to use less intense terminology such as “birth control” instead of “contraception.”  Visual aids can also help patients better understand complex medical circumstances. 

Health literacy for communities needs improvement and information has to be accessible to patients. Some patients simply do not know how to read, so this needs to be taught to them. Technology must be user-centered as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a way to improve health literacy. 

Language barriers also play a role in how well a patient can understand their healthcare choices. Doctors also have to remember to speak slowly using plain and understandable language, in order to make health care literacy more accessible.