The Widespread Problem Of Low Health Literacy

By 4  pm On

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the all the jargon and paperwork when you visit the doctor? You’re not alone. Here’s a look at the difficulties surrounding health literacy in today’s world.

It’s time for full disclosure. Answer the following questions honestly (don’t worry, you won’t be graded):

  • Have you ever had trouble understanding something a doctor or nurse said to you during an appointment?
  • Do you sometimes get confused about how to take a prescribed medication?
  • Have you ever struggled to fill out complicated health forms correctly and completely?
  • Can you think of a time when you had difficulty interpreting lab results or risk-assessment figures while trying to make a health-related decision?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re personally familiar with how difficult it is to have strong health literacy in this day and age. And you’re in good company: Only 12 percent of adults in the U.S. have proficient health literacy, and more than a third of adults have low health literacy levels that make it difficult for them to deal with common health tasks such as following directions for how to use prescription medications, according to a 2006 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Yet, health experts and patient advocates are increasingly recognizing that having health literacy – being able to access, read, understand and use health information – is an important skill in our current health care system. “It’s the foundation for all patient-provider interactions and the foundation for a healthy life,” says Dr. Howard Koh, a professor of public health leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Patient-centered care is a big theme [in medicine] these days, and health literacy is the heart and soul of patient-centered care.”

When you work with Assisting Hands Home Care Potomac, we talk with you in plain language. It’s our purpose to get you well as quickly as possible, so you don’t need us anymore.