Guest post from our Twitter friend Penelope Thompson, (@ClaroHealth)
Seems simple enough, or is it? How much is a teaspoon? How about a tablespoon? Missed my morning dose, can I take two now? Didn’t take yesterday’s, can I double up today to catch up? My brother has the same condition, can we split my medicine?
These questions are quite common. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, just over 1 out of 10 adults in the U.S. are proficient in health literacy. Health literacy is the ability to get, process, and understand basic health information and services in order to make the right health decisions. It is not necessarily a measure of someone’s years of education or even their reading level. Health literacy can be influenced by many different factors, including: culture, disabilities, and knowledge or familiarity with the health topic. Furthermore, the degree of health literacy can change depending on the situation and setting.
On the surface, the doctor’s instructions may seem obvious. However, after arriving at home, the directions are often not carried out as intended. Generally, 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon. Someone not familiar with the difference and skips a dose, and then doubles up on the medicine, may be taking 5-6 times the recommended dosage. This misunderstanding can be especially dangerous to toddlers because of their small size.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has linked low health literacy to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization. To improve health literacy, the DHHS is emphasizing effective communication. Health care providers are being encouraged to slow down, use plain language, pictures or diagrams, and provide easy-to-read written materials. It is also very important for patients to ask questions.
Doctors and nurses are genuine people and are passionately concerned about the well- being of their patients. Clearing up a confusing point can help them keep you healthy and increase your health literacy.
The following short video from the American Medical Association, shows some examples of limited health literacy: AMA Video
*Note* The above guest post is from a Twitter friend of Better World Books, Penelope Thompson. You can follow her here: @ClaroHealth. Claro Health specializes in simplifying complex medical information for public use and partner with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies to reach thousands of people with compelling and empowering messages. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Penelope!
Interested in learning more? Here’s a book all about health literacy: “Health Literacy from A to Z”