Friday, November 25, 2016

Health literacy Can Be a Matter of Life or Death

Health literacy can be a matter of life or death
The Conversation: 11.18.2016 by Keegan Shepard

The basic ability to read is essential in looking after one’s health, especially when managing a chronic illness that requires various treatments and medications. It is estimated that patients with low health literacy cost anywhere from US $106 billion to $238 billion each year in the US alone, which equates to roughly 10% of the healthcare budget. In the UK, it’s estimated that the financial cost of low health literacy is 3% to 5% of the yearly NHS budget.

Health literacy is defined as the degree to which a person has the capacity to obtain, process and comprehend health information in order to make decisions about their own health. Around 75% of health information is written at a high school to undergraduate reading level.

This presents serious problems – take the US for example, where the average reading ability of adults is between grade 8 and 9, with around a quarter of adults reading at a grade 5 level and below. In England, the current research shows that approximately 43% to 61% of English working age adults regularly experience problems understanding health information.

As a result, most healthcare information is written at a level more advanced than the reader’s ability. Imagine the anxiety caused by not understanding what your doctor has said, or by being puzzled by your prescription, all with the knowledge that your health is at stake. Or if you’re a parent and making the health decisions for your child, that you could end up making a mistake that puts them at risk. READ MORE @

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