Do you consider yourself to be health literate? Health literacy skills are needed for dialogue, discussion, and reading health information. Considering the complexity of healthcare systems, education and having a basic understanding of health literacy are essential.
Guest Post: Doreen Y. Gonzales, Executive Director, South Eastern Colorado Area Health Education Center (SECAHEC)
Health literacy isn’t a household word that people hear in our everyday lives, but for healthcare professionals and facilities, health literacy is our key area of concern in addition to giving quality healthcare. Not understanding how to use an asthma inhaler or failing to use medicines correctly are examples of illiteracy when it comes to health. A study with the American Medical Association found that persons with a low health literacy are more likely to poor health outcomes. A health literacy focused-health delivery system can be a lifestyle game changer.
Health literacy is the extent of an individual is able to receive and understand basic health information and services needed to make health decisions. In other words, it is seeking, knowing, and using health information to make decisions about your health needs.
According to Health.gov, health literacy is dependent on factors that help us logically process and use health information. For example, lay persons or health professionals’ communications and knowledge, our culture, the needs of the healthcare and public health systems, and the needs of the situation or context.
Health literacy helps us navigate the healthcare system, such as filling out complex forms or locating health providers and services. We need to be able to share information about our health history with providers and understand risks and probability. Most importantly, health literacy helps us take care of ourselves through self-care and understanding our own bodies.
South Eastern Colorado AHEC provides various evidence-based, self-management programming to community members interested in taking a proactive and healthful approach to their health. Health literacy is the key to our organization to promote and deliver vital healthcare management education for diabetes, chronic disease, and pain management.
Communication and interpretation are pieces that help our clients maintain self-care activities and develop their technical skills and behavior motivation necessary to respond their healthcare needs. The use of a modified grade-level and/or culturally-based curriculum model enables the client to know about their chronic condition, how to discuss situations their provider, and how to problem-solve to divert a healthcare crisis. The core value of health literacy is to avoid poor health outcomes. Health literacy is imperative to everyone’s health.
The time to act and ramp up your health literacy is now. Seek out education programs through organizations like SECAHEC and make health literacy a priority. The cost of inaction is too high. Start taking steps in the right direction and begin to educate yourself. You’ll be glad you did.