Health Literacy Month

What is health literacy?

If you often find yourself unable to understand information or materials that your doctor has given you, you are not alone. About 9 out of 10 individuals have trouble understanding health-related information. Only about 12% of English-speaking adults in the United States have good health literacy skills.

Health literacy is the ability to obtain and understand basic health information. It asks healthcare professionals to communicate health-related information in plain and simple language. Health literacy helps individuals make educated and informed health decisions and helps doctors better interact with their patients.

What is health literacy month?

Health literacy month is a time for healthcare providers, organizations and individuals to join together to promote the importance of providing easily understandable health information.

How can I improve my own health literacy?

Healthcare providers today are working hard to increase health literacy by writing more easy-to-understand materials and finding better ways to educate and communicate information to their patients. Use these simple techniques to help improve your own health literacy:

  • Ask a friend or family member to come with you to a doctor appointment to take notes and help you ask questions.
  • If you do not understand what your healthcare provider is telling you, do not be afraid to politely speak up and ask for clarification. It also helps to repeat the information back to your doctor to ensure you understand.
  • If the provider is speaking too fast, ask him to slow down so that you can better comprehend what he is saying.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for visual aids to help you understand.
  • Let the doctor know if you need an interpreter or if you do not understand or speak English very well.

For more information on health literacy visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). You can also find a helpful checklist for keeping your own medical health history at the National Patient Safety Foundation.

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