Causes Of Health Literacy

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The Institute of Medicine (2004) defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (para. 2). This implies that individual skills, including reading, speaking and math skills, come into play anytime people make health decisions (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). The Institute of Medicine (2004) indicates that health literacy is also a health systems problem, because health information is often complex to understand and health systems difficult to navigate.
This paper describes the individual and system causes of low health literacy. In addition, it suggests strategies that can
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Health literacy reflects what health systems do, or do not do, to make health information understandable and services usable. The causes of limited health literacy as a systems problem relate to the fact that health professionals, the media, public and private organizations, as well as governments often present health information in ways that are difficult to understand to people. Additionally, publicly available health information is often incomplete or inaccurate. Those systems problems result in a gap of understanding between the health information that health systems convey and what people understand (Zarcadoolas et al., 2006). For example, health professionals communicate with patients using medical jargon, thus leaving room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. (The AMA Foundation, 2010). Also, health professionals are frequently focused on their area of expertise and tend forget that laypeople may not necessarily be aware of the technicalities related to the scientific concepts they specialize on (Zarcadoolas et al., 2006). Plus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010) found that health systems do not tailor the style of communication to their target audiences, and their cultural beliefs. For instance, health professionals are often unaware that words that describe the body in English, cannot be translated in other languages (Fadiman, 2012). In addition, some groups may not find the…show more content…
Formal assessment tools will help professionals evaluate their patients’ reading and skills abilities, along with their capacity to complete healthcare tasks. Informal strategies will allow specialists identify the red flags that may indicate health literacy challenges, for example when patients recognize medications by looking at them, rather than reading labels (Osborne, 2013). In addition, it is important to involve members of the target audience on the design of health materials, so they can feedback on health communication products and health professionals know what areas they should improve in. Likewise, health providers may invite patients to improve their own health literacy skills, by educating them on how to keep note of their symptoms. Nurses can also help patients create their medical
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