Patient Education and Health Literacy: Make Sure Your Message is Heard

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    We are highly skilled communicators. Day in and day out, we communicate with teams, patients, caregivers, vendors, and administrators. It takes a different approach with each group, especially our patients.

    In 2003, approximately 80 million adults in the U.S. (36 percent) had limited health literacy. Rates in certain population subgroups were higher, including the elderly, minorities, individuals who have not completed high school, adults who spoke a language other than English before starting school, and people living in poverty. The negative effect of low or limited health literacy on the use of health services and on overall health outcomes is significant, especially for seniors. [1]

    See these findings from AHRQ’s research summary on Mitigating the Effects of Low Health Literacy: A Brief of the Research Evidence for Health Communicators & Educators:

    Lower health literacy was even associated with increased emergency department and hospital use, less screening for breast cancer (mammography), and lower influenza immunization.

    So, what do you do when your message doesn’t get through because of a language barrier or patient education materials written at a high literacy level? Share some ways you and your organizations have implemented to overcome health literacy barriers to communication.


    [1] http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/search-for-guides-reviews-and reports/?pageaction=displayproduct&productID=852
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