Did you know that October is Health Literacy Month. More than 30 million people in the United States have difficulty with basic reading tasks? Only 12 percent of consumers have proficient health literacy skills, according to a National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey.
Low health literacy can impact one’s ability to:
- Read prescription drug labels
- Fill out medical forms
- Locate health providers
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
Health literacy is an issue for all racial and ethnic groups. It’s a major public health factor in eliminating disparities among minority populations. In recent years, as the U.S. population has become increasingly diverse, there has been more of a focus on improving health awareness. Advancing health literacy is an important component of the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative as well. Many major schools of public health, too, now offer health literacy instruction.
There are many things that people can do to help improve health information’s design and delivery.
- Test for literacy
- Make messages count
- Present information logically and clearly
- Think carefully about design
- Consider your audience, including culture.
By improving health literacy, we can help more people make informed decisions about their health care and lives.