Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, Health Literacy Month is all about promoting understandable health information. This information is critical in order for individuals to make appropriate health decisions.
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. This includes reading, writing, and numeracy of health information. Sometimes, health information can be difficult to understand and communicate among different audiences. This can make navigating the healthcare system challenging.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 77 million U.S. adults have basic or below basic health literacy. Low health literacy can lead to poor health outcomes, such low uptake of preventive health services and/or greater use of treatment health services. This can lead to high healthcare costs.
There are many factors that can affect health literacy. Some of these factors include: education, age, language, and culture. Culture can play a key role in how one understands and responds to health information. Culture involves certain beliefs, values, communication styles that all can affect how one processes health information. Therefore, it is important that health information is communicated in a way that is culturally appropriate for the individual or audience.
One key setting for health literacy is that of patient and health care providers. Patients may have difficulty understanding complex medical information, while providers may have difficulty communicating complex medical information. It is important for providers and patients to work together in order to ensure that health information is understood and communicated effectively, so that the best health care decisions are made for the patient.
Interested in learning more about health literacy? Check out the following resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Additional resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Kindig, D. A., Panzer, A. M., & Nielsen-Bohlman, L. (Eds.). (2004). Health literacy: a prescription to end confusion. National Academies Press.
National Institutes of Health. (2017, May 31). Health Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/institutes-nih/nih-office-director/office-communications-public-liaison/clear-communication/health-literacy
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/issuebrief/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy Basics. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy and Health Outcomes. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (N.d.). Health Literacy: Definition. Retrieved from https://nnlm.gov/initiatives/topics/health-literacy