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Health Literacy

Health Literacy

Research illustrates that health literacy is very important. The writers at Paper Masters will research health literacy for you and custom write a paper on the many aspects of this phenomena.

One of the greatest struggles facing healthcare providers is ensuring all individuals maintain a basic level of health literacy. Individuals should not only have the ability to acquire basic knowledge about their health, but they should also be able to fully understand all the elements at play when making healthcare decisions. One of the most basic obstacles to this is general communication and analytical skills; many resources that fully explain healthcare issues to patients are written in a way that they cannot easily understand. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers, then, to ensure all options are fully explained in a clear, coherent, neutral way so patients are able to make the decision that is best for them.

Health literacy is important because of the complexity of the healthcare system.

  1. Something as simple as filling out forms in a general practitioner's office can be daunting to many
  2. The process of choosing a healthcare plan, a physician, or prescription coverage options can have a profound and lasting impact on one's overall experiences with the healthcare system.
  3. Understanding the intricacies of healthcare services and the rights that individuals have as patients is also an important part of maintaining health literacy.

Because of these various and complex factors, it is vital that health literacy be a basic element of educational systems and be provided as a community service to ensure long-term success for all individuals.

A great deal of empirical work has indicated that health illiteracy impedes a patient's ability to take advantage of the care that is provided. To mention but one example, Paper Masters has cited a study that showed that diabetic patients who had low levels of health literacy were less able to manage their blood sugar levels than people who had a high degree of health literacy. Moreover, quite apart from the relative lack of ability to get the most out of health care that is received, access to health care itself is restricted by a patient's lack of health literacy. Health illiteracy impedes the ability of a patient to seek care.

Low health literacy levels are not always easy for a provider to detect. Illiterate people often feel a painful sense of stigmatization with respect to their inability to read and will often work to conceal this fact about themselves. Moreover, literacy per se does not guarantee health literacy. Research notes that some studies have found that one-third of patients who have had some level of post-secondary education are, in fact, unable to understand health care information.

This places an important duty on health care providers, a duty to be proactive in developing quick and easy means of educating patients about the dimensions of their care. Providers cannot assume that giving out a piece of paper with instructions on it will enable the patient to follow those instructions; this, of course, is a particularly important point with respect to self-administered medications. Nor can a provider take a patient's nod of acquiescence after something has been verbally imparted to indicate understanding or acceptance. The problem of health literacy involves a host of thorny issues in the field of communications, particularly cross-cultural communication. A culturally illiterate provider may easily make mistakes concerning patients' behaviors-verbal and non-verbal-seeing them as indicating a higher level of patient literacy than that patient actually has. It is also to be noted that the issue of health literacy directly impacts the issue of patient autonomy. Informed consent is only possible when the patient truly understands-not merely agrees to-what his/her treatment involves and it is the positive duty of providers to ensure that this understanding is achieved. All of the above argues that providers be better trained in communications skills than they now are and that visual aids-and perhaps computer software-be designed with the idea of making health literacy less dependent than it now is on patient's reading skills. And, at a minimum, those who train health care providers should make sure that their students fully understand the importance of the health literacy issue and its pervasiveness as a problem.

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