Insights on Health Literacy

It’s essential to become more health literate.

In the United States, how much do people know and understand about various health issues? For many, the answer is unfortunately not much.

Consider a few of the highlights from the report “America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information.” Click the image to access the full report.

Insights on Health Literacy

In general:

“Health literacy — the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions — is essential to promote healthy people and communities. Health care institutions and public health systems play a critical role in health literacy, because they can make it easier or more difficult for people to find and use health information and services. For the first time, there are national data that demonstrate currently available health information is too difficult for average Americans to use to make health decisions.”

“Limited health literacy isn’t a disease that makes itself easily visible. In fact, you can’t tell by looking. Health literacy depends on the context. Even people with strong literacy skills can face health literacy challenges, such as when: They are not familiar with medical terms or how their bodies work. People have to interpret numbers or risks to make a health care decision. They are diagnosed with a serious illness and are scared or confused. They have complex conditions that require complicated self-care.”

Key findings and policy implications of the first-ever National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) findings include:

Only 12 percent of U.S. adults had proficient health literacy“Over a third of U.S. adults — 77 million people — have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart.”

“Limited health literacy affects adults in all racial and ethnic groups. The proportion of adults with basic or below basic health literacy ranges from 28 percent of white adults to 65 percent of Hispanic adults.”

“Although half of adults without a high school education had below basic health literacy skills, even high school and college graduates can have limited health literacy.

Compared to privately insured adults, both publicly insured and uninsured adults had lower health literacy skills.”

All adults, regardless of their health literacy skills, were more likely to get health information from radio/television, friends/family, and health professionals than from print media.”

Author: Living Well with Cancer

I am a long-time business school professor, who is a Pancreatic Cancer survivor. I had Whipple surgery on February 12, 2015. In this blog, I want to help others live well with cancer. A positive attitude, caring family, strong medical team, and supportive colleagues are key. And support from other cancer survivors can be life affirming.

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