How can health professionals support and serve our most vulnerable populations? When discussing access to health care, income and location are generally agreed upon barriers to access. Populations who live just above the poverty line often do not qualify for government assistance; however, without it, they often cannot afford coverage. Similarly, populations that live in rural areas often have less lack access to health services. One barrier that accompanies these and is often overlooked is health literacy.
Literacy is not only an education issue it affects access to healthcare as well. When populations have difficulty reading, they may misunderstand health brochures or worse take medication incorrectly. According to Kelly Warnock, Program Manager at the Durham County Health Department, health professionals have a responsibility to reach populations where they are. After working for over 10 years with lower-income, low literacy populations, Ms. Warnock believes that it is possible to increase all communities’ access to healthcare and health information. For health professionals, that means being creative with communication techniques organizing information clearly, using visuals, and non-technical language. If you’re interested in learning more about health literacy and communication, check out this resource from the Food Research and Action Center.