Are You Health Literate?

July 4, 2012
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How would you rate your understanding of health information?  Do you understand everything you hear and read when interacting with doctors, hospitals or clinics?  If you don’t, you’re not alone.   A number of studies had found that almost 90% of adults find it hard to understand the health information in health care facilities, retail stores, on TV and in their communities.

Being health literate is defined as being able to find and understand the basic health information and services you need to make appropriate decisions about your health.   Two years ago the U.S. Government published a National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

Among other things, the plan encourages the use of simpler language that is more action oriented.  There have been some changes.  One you may have noticed is the labels on over-the-counter medications.

See below.

 healthcare literacy

The government is starting to do its part and some healthcare providers are as well.  But, remember, you too can make sure that you understand the health information you are given.  If you don’t understand, ASK someone to explain it more simply.  Remember you are not alone – nine (9) out of ten (10) people have a HARD time!  And if they tell you and you still don’t understand; don’t be embarrassed to ask AGAIN.

Just as with any specialist (e.g. lawyers, biophysicists, etc.) it is not easy to translate technical language into everyday language.  But it is especially important that you understand health information.  It could mean the difference between life and death.

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What are your thoughts on these new regulations, are they helpful?