March 1, 2011

30 Seconds in the Life of a Low Health Literate Individual

1) What has your physician recommended for you?
2) What does this procedure involve?
3) How are you going to prepare for the procedure?

Now, think about how that felt? Did it take you a second to figure out what you were reading? Did you have to look back at the short paragraph in order to answer the questions at the end? If you struggled with this exercise, maybe you will be able to better empathize with the the 90 million low health-literate Americans who face frustrations such as this on a daily basis. The average medical form, whether it be a pamphlet on how to eat nutritiously or a patient consent form, is written at the 10th grade level. The average American is reading at the 8th grade level. Herein lies one of the major problems in our healthcare system.

What can you do? If you're an adult ed instructor, incorporate health-related information into your lesson plans. Don't know how? No problem, we provide half-day workshops on how to teach health literacy in the adult ed classroom! If you're a healthcare provider or advocate, talk to your supervisors about the patient-friendliness of the materials that you provide your clients. Also, think about the care you provide low health literate clients...are they REALLY understanding everything you tell them? We provide trainings on patient-provider communication in order to improve patient-compliance. Together we can begin to increase the health literacy of our community.

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