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October is Health Literacy Month

Did you know that October is Health Literacy Month? More importantly, do you know what health literacy is? Health literacy is defined as the degree to which people can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information they need to make the right health decisions for their lives. Unfortunately, health literacy is low among older adults, minorities, and those who have a low socioeconomic status. 

Both organizations and individuals can observe Health Literacy Month in an attempt to broaden health literacy and break down the barriers that may exist between healthcare and laypeople. Health experts agree that there is currently a large gap in the way health care issues are communicated by professionals and how the average person interprets them. Healthcare professionals may easily understand medical terms because of the training and school they have had. Average people, however, and especially those who do not have adequate access to resources may be presented with the same information but may not be able to decipher its meaning as intelligently. This is where health literacy comes into play. 

Individuals who struggle with health literacy are not just those with limited reading or writing skills. They could be well-educated people who do not understand the importance of certain medical conditions or terminology. People who struggle understanding health literacy are statistically more likely to skip important medical tests, may not be as vigilant about taking their medications, may have a harder time living with their health conditions, and could see an increase in visits to the emergency room as opposed to those with high health literacy levels. 

While there are low levels of health literacy among certain populations, the good news is that many healthcare facilities are working on improving communication with patients to ensure clarity and help patients make the most educated decisions for their health. From simplified written materials to video and photo assets, doctors are becoming more innovative with how they are getting their messages across. 

In addition to healthcare institutions working on health literacy, there are also many ways that individuals can improve their own health literacy.

  1. Prepare for doctors’ visits by listing out symptoms and writing out questions prior to your appointment. 

  2. Take notes during your doctor’s appointment so you can ask follow-up questions.

  3. Ask for phone numbers and ensure you have all necessary parties’ contact information should you have any questions.

  4. Attend health education programs in your community to self-educate.

Having all the information you need from your physicians and doctors is important, but even more important is understanding that information. Work on your own health literacy to make better decisions about your health now and in the future. 

For additional information, questions, or healthcare supplies/resources, please feel free to reach out to us directly at CWI Medical. 


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