Why Plain Language is so Important to Health Literacy

Those involved in the health field spend many years educating themselves to learn the complex health related terminologies that are foreign to the average person. As a result, there is a large portion of the population who cannot comprehend what their doctors are telling them about their health. According to the U.S Department of Education, a little over sixty percent of the population can read instructions on a prescription label. This alarming statistic shows why health care professionals and educators need to be more conscientious when explaining health related matters to their patients. The importance of being health literate can be solved by having readily accessible information to health related matters so that the average person can understand and use to make informed decisions.

The Florida Literacy Coalition held a Health Literacy Summit last year which dealt with this same issue. Plain language is clear simplified wording that acts as an initiative that emphasizes the importance of using simple words that people can understand when communicating with patients. The importance of health care professionals communicating with their patients in plain language will ultimately help with the issue of doctor to patient miscommunication.  The benefits of health care professionals using plain language will increase the percentage of people who have an intermediate or proficient health literacy level and decrease the amount of people that have a basic health literacy level.

Table 1. Descriptions of Health Literacy

Health Literacy Level Task Examples Percentage
Proficient Using a table, calculate an employee’s share of health insurance costs for a year. 12%
Intermediate Read instructions on a prescription label, and determine what time a person can take the medication. 53%
Basic Read a pamphlet, and give two reasons a person with no symptoms should be tested for a disease. 21%
Below Basic Read a set of short instructions, and identify what is permissible to drink before a medical test. 14%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy..

The following are ways to become more health literate:

  1. Improve Communication With Your Doctors:
  • Ask your health care professional to use familiar language and write down their information.
  • Ask questions if something is unclear. Ask for written information to take home.
  1. Take action in your community:
  • Attend health education programs around your area.
  • Request that local schools include health literacy in their adult education curriculum.

SOURCES

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information. Available at: http://health.gov/communication/literacy/issuebrief/ (Accessed: 14 October 2015). Inline Citations: (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

FLC Presents the Stair Climber Challenge, a Great Way to Celebrate Health Literacy Month

Tired of not exercising because of your busy work schedule? Bring your work out to work!

In honor of Health Literacy month we have started the Stair Climber Challenge. The SC Challenge is an office wide stair climbing competition. Incentives and prizes are distributed on a weekly and monthly basis to keep participants engaged. Building staircases and Stairmasters are acceptable stair climbing methods.

Start a Stair Climber Challenge in Your Office!

If you’d like to encourage your staff to keep a healthy and fit lifestyle by building exercise into their work-day, consider starting a SC Challenge in your office. You can view our rules below and tweak to better fit your organization’s needs.

Stair Climber Challenge FLC Official Rules

Stair Climber Challenge FLC Official Rules

Benefits of Taking the Stairs:

  • Taking the stairs can make a significant contribution to the 30 minutes of exercise we all need every day.Practice - Close up of young man running up the stairs
  • The 30 minutes of physical activity we need for our health can be accumulated one stair flight at a time, spread out at intervals throughout the day.
  • Physical activities like stair climbing are a great way to cope with job-related stress.
  • Climbing just two flights of stairs everyday could result in a loss of 6lbs per year. Six flights a day could help you trim nearly 18 lbs. (results will vary based on other lifestyle/personal factors).
  • Adding stairs to your day can add years to your life. Studies show that risk of cardiovascular disease and death is lower among those who are regular stair climbers.
  • Stair climbing can also add life to your years. Those who climb stairs on a daily basis have greater leg strength and aerobic capacity, allowing them to participate more fully in a wide range of daily activities.
  • Taking the stairs is often faster than waiting for an elevator during peak usage times. Take the test and time your trip. Often for trips of 7 floors or less, the stairs are the quickest way to your destination!
  • Using the stairs requires no special skill, equipment or clothing and it burns twice as many calories as walking. So step right up!
  • Stair climbing is a ‘green’ activity; the only energy source

Share Your Results

Join us on our Facebook page and share your Stair Climber stories. Showcase your accomplishments, weekly winners, or unique climbs that made your week!

We look forward to staying healthy with you!

October is Health Literacy Month!

Health Literacy Month was founded by Helen Osborne, M.Ed, OTR/L as a way to raise awareness for health literacy issues in 1999. This year’s theme is “Be a Health Literacy Hero.” You learn more about current “heroes” and nominate your own by visiting Helen’s site.

The Importance of Health Literacy
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy has showed that nine out of ten adults do not have the skills necessary to maintain health and prevent disease. Adults with low levels of health literacy are much more likely to report poor health and less likely to have health insurance.1

Health illiteracy is a widespread issue in America. The effects of health illiteracy are felt on a personal, community-wide, and national level. It is estimated that low levels of health literacy costs the U.S. economy up to $236 billion each year.1 Raising health literacy levels is a goal of many organizations throughout the national.

Health_Literacy_Infographic2

Working for Change: What Is Being Done to Improve Health Literacy across the Nation
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began its Healthy People 2020 campaign in 2010. Healthy People 2020 provides “science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.”2 Healthy People 2020 strives not only to improve general health status of the U.S. population, but also focuses on disparities and inequality in access to healthcare.

In addition to the Healthy People campaign, community based organizations throughout the nation work to improve health literacy. The CDC currently lists organizations which are working to promote Health Literacy by state. These organizations’ goals must be in line with the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. You may learn about each program by clicking on the program name in the list.

The Florida Health Literacy Initiative
Florida Literacy Coalition (FLC) is proud to partner with Florida Blue to make available targeted grants to promote health literacy. The goal is to provide health-education resources for local adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and family literacy programs so that students in these programs can make informed choices about their health and nutrition.

The FLC has also offers a range of health literacy publications. Our publications include the Staying Healthy and Staying Healthy for Beginners books which you can download for free in PDF format or order hardcopies by clicking here. Companion videos are also available.

Sources

health.gov. (n.d.). Health Literacy – Fact Sheet: Health Literacy Basics . Retrieved 10 01, 2015, from Health.Gov: http://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm

healthypeople.gov. (n.d.). About Healthy People | Healthy People 2020. Retrieved 10 01, 2015, from HealthyPeople.gov:

http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/About-Healthy-People