Health Literacy: Improving Overall Wellness

The Physicians Committee


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Health Literacy: Improving Overall Wellness

Health Literacy: Improvign Overall Wellness

Understanding the health care system can be overwhelming for anyone, including the 80 million Americans who have basic literacy issues. But Health Literacy Month aims to give everyone the ability to understand and make good decisions about their well-being.

Health literacy involves many everyday activities some may take for granted. These can include reading prescription labels, following instructions from a physician, and navigating health insurance. However, around 40 percent of Americans have inadequate health literacy, which can lead to poor treatment, prolonged hospitalization, or even death.

Here are some tips to improve understanding:

Health literacy differs from general literacy: Aside from the ability to read, health literacy must lead to action that will help your current health situation. Work together with a health care professional to guarantee proper treatment.

Health literacy may vary: It is important to remember that health literacy can differ widely. Populations at risk range from the illiterate to the elderly, as well as nonnative English speakers. Literacy in general is dynamic and can change over time, so it is important to maintain an adequate level of awareness of your health needs.

Remember that communication is key: When speaking with your health care provider, request that he or she use plain language to relay concise guidance. Patients often need help with nutrition labels, calculating and understanding personal medical information (blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, etc.), and proper nutrition, so do not be afraid to ask questions. When dealing with medical advice, repeat instructions from your physician to be clear with directives. Do not leave room for ambiguous or confusing jargon, and consider your accessibility—do you have internet access if needed? Is the print legible? Are the dosage numbers understandable?

On top of these difficulties, it is very easy to get confused by the multitude of different diets being promoted by various organizations. However, one thing they all can agree on is that fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, are all a vital part of a healthful lifestyle. If you need more guidance, click through this interactive page about whole, plant-based foods.

When dealing with your health, there is no reason to feel intimidated or confused. You can find many resources to improve health communication here. It is important to stay on top of issues and be aware of what is available to guarantee your health.