A Quick Overview of Health Literacy
According to the WHO, health literacy is “as the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health.”
It is a broader concept that lies beyond gaining knowledge about a disease or its treatment. Rather, it embraces every aspect of the flow of information that helps you make a better decision about your health. In fact, it focuses more on the right of use of health information. Nonetheless, there is no single definition for it. It is due to the diversity in the healthcare context. For example, what you consider health literacy in the developed world may not be the same for developing countries.
In its simplest form, we may define it as the ability to make a better health decision based on the available information on a drug or disease. When you become more knowledgeable about what is happening with you, you are more likely to enhance the success of a treatment program.
Health Literacy Trends In The US: Where Do We Stand?
Regrettably, the status of health literacy in the US is not very exciting. In fact, it may be even below par with what we expect from a major world economy. Available data suggest a mere 12% US adults have an advanced knowledge and information about health. Meaning, 77 million adults are still below or on the basic level. Also, nine out of ten adults do not have the necessary skills to prevent a disease or manage their health.
In fact, those people may not be able to make sense of a prescription. As a result, there is an increased risk of medication error.
To reduce the risk, the healthcare professionals should deliver complex health information in a way that is understandable to the layperson. They can do this by using plain language as much as possible.
Implications of Low Health Literacy
Money wise, a poor level of health literacy costs the US economy $106 billion to $238 billion every year. Likewise, it also increases the need for hospitalization which ultimately soars the healthcare expenses. In a similar manner, less frequent use of preventive measures further hurts the economy.
What Are The Possibilities Ahead?
No doubt, a surprisingly low level of health literacy is a major concern for every link in the chain. For example, the policy makers, healthcare organizations, patients, and the professionals. Nonetheless, the possibilities of a greater access to the health information are numerous. Here are some ways to explore the possibilities.
- Consider health literacy as a common issue of the society as well as the government.
- Promote the role of every concerned member on the health link. Most importantly, the role of the patients and healthcare providers should get the maximum attention. In fact, thehealthcare system is a complex environment. It is a web-like structure where every member has a definitive role. Yet, at times, the roles intersect thus making it more complicated. Thus, it is imperative to understand the discrete as well as overlapping roles of each member in the link.
- Use plain language as much as possible. Plain language is a simplified version of the complex medical information. In fact, itsuse is of paramount importance in a scenario when a slight margin of error can lead to a catastrophic result. Considering how sensitive health information is, you should always seek reliable, authentic and evidence-based health information. Also, the language should be relevant to the patients from diverse sociocultural backgrounds.
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- Put more investments on research to measure health literacy. Data can provide a reliable information on the status of health literacy in a specific group of the population. As a result, it paves the way for effective remedial measures. Thus, it is very important that the policymakers emphasize on finding how many people are health literate and to what level.
Information Technology: One of The Best Solutions to Promote Health Literacy
With an ever-increasing internet penetration in all aspects of life, information technology has become an indispensable tool for promoting health literacy. But, the healthcare organizations or professionals should always understand that technology is just a tool. While they are the ones who make the right use of it.
Health literacy with data aims to:
- Ensure a continuous and instant patient access to the health data.
- Utilize the data from the patients to update EHR.
- Bring innovative changes in the way the patients get health information or service. For example, building a continuous link between the patients and healthcare services.
- Address the healthcare needs of every member of the community.
- Achieve 4 E‘s: Engage, Educate, Empower, and Enable.
- Improve treatment outcomes.
- Narrow the gap in health literacy among various sections of the community.
How Can Data Promote Health Literacy?
Health organizations can analyze the patient data and use the result of the analysis to:
- Transfer health and patient information to the target audience in an easy-to-understand language. Thus, it prompts the patients to change their behavior. In a sense, such practice increases patient engagement in the decision-making process.
- Shed light on the patient’s health issues, concerns and making them ready for screening.
- Monitor long-standing diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis.
- Create standard guidelines to treat, prevent, manage the diseases and promote healthy patient behaviors.
- Record and track patient response to a therapy. As a result, it optimizes the treatment outcomes.
Want to Know More?
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