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QStudent #7: Health Literacy

Did you know that twenty-two percent of American adults read below the proficiency level, as compared to the fourteen percent who are at or above (Begintoread.com)? Low literacy levels cost approximately $73 million per year in direct healthcare costs because of the amount of errors that are produced (Begintoread.com). Medical jargon is the language peculiar to the medical field, and is often hard for those outside of the medical profession to understand. This misunderstanding can cause clients to become confused, as well as overwhelmed, when discussing their health and/or treatment options. Many people ‘believe the doctor is always right’ and take a particular medication without knowing the reason for taking it, how much to take, how often it should be taken and common or harmful side effects. Although we place a lot of faith in doctors and nurses, this could be a potentially dangerous situation. Therefore, we must always remember to speak in lay terms with our patients and their families. Always be aware of signs of misunderstanding and encourage them to ask questions. When possible, ask them to repeat back what you had said or demonstrate on themselves or a model if necessary. This will let you know they understand the basic knowledge needed to control their disease or illness.

The video posted below highlights many of the health literacy issues we see here in America.

So the question is: What is your opinion on the health literacy problem in America? What method(s) have you tried to ensure your patient(s)/families understand what you are teaching them?

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