What you don't know can hurt you: Report addresses widespread gaps in health literacy, shows how to bridge them
Is it possible for a health care system to redesign its services to better educate patients to deal with their immediate health issues and also become more savvy consumers of medicine in the long run?
The answer is yes, according to a study led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) that was recently reported by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The team's paper describes ten attributes that health care organizations should utilize to make it easier for people to better navigate health information, make sense of services and better manage their own health -- assistance for which there is a profound societal need.
Some 77 millions people in the United States have difficulty understanding even very basic health information, which clouds their ability to follow doctors' recommendations, and millions more simply lack the skills necessary to make clear, informed decisions about their own health care, said senior author Dean Schillinger, MD, a UCSF professor of medicine, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at SFGH, and director of the Health Communications Program the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at SFGH.
"Depending on how you define it, nearly half the U.S. population has poor health literacy skills," he said.
"Over the last two decades, we have focused on what patients can do to improve their health literacy," he said. "In this report, we look at the other side of the health literacy coin, and focus on what health care systems can do."
Emerging from an IOM Roundtable that brought together leaders from academia, industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations and patient and consumer interest groups, the new paper examines the programs, practices, attitudes and attributes of organizations that create environments that foster health literacy.
Why Health Literacy is So Important
The importance of enhancing health literacy has been demonstrated by numerous clinical studies over the years, said Schillinger, many of them carried out at UCSF. Health literacy is linked directly to patient wellness. People who are adept at understanding health information tend to make better choices, are better able to self-manage their chronic conditions, and have significantly better outcomes than people who do not.
Adults with low health literacy may find it especially difficult to navigate the healthcare system, and are more likely to have higher rates of serious medication errors, more emergency room visits and hospitalizations, gaps in their preventative care, increased likelihood of dying, and even poorer health outcomes for their children.
A number of health policy organizations have recognized that health literacy not only is important to individuals, but also benefits society because helping patients help themselves is an important pathway to keeping down health care costs. Successful self-management reduces disease complications and can cut down on unnecessary emergency room visits and eliminate other wasteful spending
Organizations that promote proper health literacy tend to do certain things very well. The ten attributes in the report include items such as:
- Making improving health literacy a priority at every level of the organization;
- Measuring health literacy and using those measurements to guide their practices;
- Taking into account the particular needs of the populations they serve;
- Avoiding stigmatizing people who lack health literacy;
- Providing easy access to health information and assistance navigating services;
- Distributing easy-to-understand information across print, audiovisual, and social media channels;
- Taking health literacy into account when discussing medicines or in other high-risk situations by using proven educational techniques, such as the teach-back method;
- Training the healthcare workforce in health communication techniques; and
- Letting patients know what their insurance policies cover and what they are themselves responsible for paying.
More information: A complete description of ten attributes that define health-literate health care organizations can be found at the following links:
The report, "Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations" by Cindy Brach, Debra Keller, Lyla M. Hernandez, Cynthia Baur, Ruth Parker, Benard Dreyer, Paul Schyve, Andrew J. Lemerise, and Dean Schillinger was published by the IOM in June 2012.
Provided by University of California, San Francisco
- Poor literacy skills linked to increased mortality risk among older people Mar 15, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Many dialysis patients may not understand important health information May 05, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Low health literacy associated with higher rate of death among heart failure patients Apr 26, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Health literacy tests underutilized; may improve elderly cancer patients' care and outcomes Apr 29, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Poor health literacy cause for alarm Feb 07, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Calorie information in fast food restaurants used by 40 percent of 9-18 year olds when making food choices
A new study published online today (Thursday) in the Journal of Public Health has found that of young people who visited fast food or chain restaurants in the U.S. in 2010, girls and youth who were obese were more likely ...
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Implementation of systematic monitoring for medication adherence will allow for identification of barriers to adherence and tailoring of interventions, according to a viewpoint piece published ...
Health 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—The Obama administration says more doctors and hospitals are embracing technology as adoption of computerized medical records reaches a "tipping point" in America.
Health 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Johns Hopkins researchers report that hospitals may be reaping enormous income for patients whose hospital stays are complicated by preventable bloodstream infections contracted in their intensive care units.
Health 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A University of Illinois researcher says that the cornerstone of our efforts to alleviate food insecurity should be to encourage more people to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) "because ...
Health 7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Swiss scientists reveal the mechanism responsible for aging hidden deep within mitochondria—and dramatically slow it down in worms by administering antibiotics to the young.
9 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (5) | 0 |
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
9 hours ago | 4 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion—the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 2 |
(HealthDay)—Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
A new approach for immunizing against influenza elicited a more potent immune response and broader protection than the currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines when tested in mice and ferrets. The vaccine ...
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
In a series of lab experiments designed to unravel the workings of a key enzyme widely considered a possible trigger of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that in the most severe ...
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |