Are your patients “health literate”?

How “health literate” do you believe your patients to be? You often send your patients home with prescriptions, pamphlets, and detailed instructions – but do they often follow your guidelines? Do they even understand what they’re reading?

In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) introduced the first large-scale national assessment in the United States to measure health literacy – the ability to use literacy skills to read and understand written health-related information encountered in everyday life. Unfortunately, they found that the health literacy rate in the US is only 12%.

Approximately one out of ten Americans are “health literate”, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

What this means is that roughly ten percent of the population is proficient with measuring medications, understanding nutrition labels, choosing healthcare and prescription plans, and generally understanding their own health and wellness. Most Americans, therefore, struggle to make appropriate decisions in regards to their own health. The American Medical Association further claims that poor health literacy is “a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level and race.”

As a healthcare provider, what do you think can be done to increase health literacy?

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