What is Health Literacy?

What is Health Literacy?

Post Date: Oct 21, 2020
Learning Partners

Have you ever been handed a piece of information at a doctor’s office and had no idea what it meant? You’re not alone. According to the Institute of Medicine’s report on health literacy, nearly half of all American adults have trouble understanding health information. Whether you’re signing a document or reading a medication label, not fully understanding information can put your health at risk.

What Is Health Literacy

October is Health Literacy Month, so we’re breaking down what health literacy is and why it’s so important for children and adults alike. An excellent way to think about health literacy is by asking the following questions:

  • Can I find what I need?
  • Can I understand what I find?
  • Can I use what I find to meet my needs?

Health literacy is about making things easy to understand for people of all backgrounds so that they can make healthy decisions for themselves. Low health literacy tends to higher in demographics when healthcare is more complicated, where prior healthcare experiences were primarily on an emergency basis, and amidst professions where an employer does not provide healthcare. However, anyone can be impacted by low health literacy.

Why Low Health Literacy is a Problem

Low health literacy can create, prolong, or worsen many health issues that could be prevented with better understanding. Patients with low health literacy may struggle to follow instructions on medication, know the options available to find the health care they need or make decisions about when to see a doctor. Low health literacy is linked to higher rates of hospitalization and use of emergency services, and less frequent use of preventive services. This results in higher health care costs overall, which is why it’s a problem on both a personal and institutional level.

How CHP Promotes Health Literacy

Community Health Partners makes health literacy a priority in its conversations with patients. All new staff members are taught about health literacy and given a health literacy test as part of the onboarding process. Before appointments, CHP staff let patients know what to expect and what to bring with them. All written material is provided at a 7th-grade reading level, and CHP staff are trained to slow down and focus on a few key points, using pictures to describe things. They may ask patients to restate what they said in their own words. They also avoid acronyms and figures of speech. Most of all, they seek to create a welcoming, supportive environment.

How You Can Advocate for Your Health Literacy

As a patient, you can advocate for yourself to make sure you have what you need to make smart decisions about your health. From us at CHP, here are some tips to improve your own health literacy.

  • Ask Questions
    Make sure you get the answers you need. Don’t leave your appointment with your questions unanswered.
  • Take Notes
    Writing things down can help you understand and remember information.
  • Bring Someone You Trust
    A friend or family member can help explain things to you or recall information shared.
  • Follow Up
    If you’re confused about something after an appointment, call your doctor before taking any action. Though it may feel like an inconvenience, you deserve to understand your diagnosis, options, and treatment. Following up is worth it.
  • Tell Your Doctor if You Need an Interpreter
    You have a right to an interpreter at no cost to you. Even if you speak some English, tell the doctor’s office what language you prefer when you make an appointment.

For further information about how to build your health literacy, contact your local CHP clinic and set up an appointment. You can also click below to set up a wellness check, so you can go into 2021 with confidence about your overall health. We are happy to be a resource for all your healthcare needs. Come by one of our clinics and find out why people are saying CHP is for Me.