October is Health Literacy Month. Health literacy is the degree to which people can obtain and understand information about their health. This is very important, as one needs to comprehend medical advice in order to make important decisions about their health and well-being.
According to the CDC, “Nearly nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use personal and public health information when it’s filled with unfamiliar or complex terms.”
Medical jargon can be confusing to people who haven’t gone to school to study them, so using those terms can leave people out. The CDC suggests that healthcare practitioners use familiar words and concepts, and that they make sure they communicate clearly. They point out that this will also make translation easier if English isn’t a person’s first language.
When someone doesn’t understand a diagnosis, they can’t seek the appropriate treatment. But health literacy isn’t just about what people do after they are given a diagnosis; when a person understands their unique health needs, they can take care of themselves in an informed way. They can practice prevention, not just treatment.
The CDC again: “Limited health literacy costs the healthcare system money and results in higher than necessary morbidity and mortality. Improving health literacy could prevent nearly 1 million hospital visits and save over $25 billion a year.”
Improved health literacy helps everyone. While we’re still in a pandemic, we understand firsthand the need to make sure our health system isn’t overburdened. This month, we highlight just how crucial it is that we all have clear information to keep ourselves safe and as healthy as possible.
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