What is health literacy? The definition of health literacy was updated in August 2020. The update addresses personal health literacy and organizational health literacy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”
Why is health literacy so important? Health literacy leads to health equity. Health equity is the attainment of the highest level of health for all people. It’s reached when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Lack of equity increases the risk for disease and illness.
Health literacy is important as all of us need to take care of our health. We must have the means to find, understand, and use health information and services so that we can prevent health problems, protect our health, and manage health problems.
Don’t confuse health literacy with illiteracy. Even people who read well and are good with numbers can face health literacy issues when they aren’t familiar with medical terms or are diagnosed with a serious illness that leaves them scared and confused.
People need information they can understand to make the best decisions for their health and treatments. This is health literacy. When health information is confusing or too difficult to figure out, it results in a health literacy problem.
According to CDC, nearly nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use personal and public health information when it’s filled with unfamiliar or complex terms.
Health literacy is important to understand health information and choose a plan that best meets unique health needs. The pandemic has shown how important it is to have a full understanding of information.
People that are not given the resources to understand basic health information are more likely to have more hospitalizations and less likely to follow up on treatment. It’s a vicious circle.
Promoting the impact of health literacy, educating people about managing their health and improving access to healthcare are central aspects that should be core to our efforts to address the existing inequities. Providing clarity is essential.
Limited health literacy costs the healthcare system money. Better data can lead to a more equitable healthcare. We need to bring awareness to the impact of health literacy to ensure equitable care for all.