What Exactly is Health Literacy?

The health literacy definition is simply the degree to which people have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services that are needed to make the right health decisions. There are four different levels of health literacy.

If a person doesn’t understand basic information about his or her health medical facilities usually have a caseworker on staff to help educate patients. Knowing the health literacy definition will help a person make sound decisions when it comes to their long-term health goals.

The four levels of health literacy are as follows, below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient. Below basic would be where the person can read and follow basic instructions. Basic literacy would be where a person can read a pamphlet and comprehend the implications of why the individuals need to be tested for signs and symptoms of a disease.

Intermediate would be where the individual can read the instructions on prescriptions, discharge summaries, and so forth and understand why these instructions are important to follow and that if they can not be followed the physician will need to be notified as to why. Last but not least is proficient, this is where the person can read and understand all the instructions from the physician, the instructions on medications are able to follow these instructions, and is able to understand the implications of the insurance coverage.

Health care facilities and public health systems play a crucial role in assisting individuals to understand health literacy. Often these facilities can make the process of finding health information for patients and family members find the information they need to maintain their health. Most individuals that have below basic health literacy are not easily identifiable. Health literacy can become difficult for all individuals. When a person is not familiar with some of the medical terminology, or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, or they have a serious condition that requires difficult self-care.

There are many benefits of health literacy which include but are not limited to improved communication, better outcomes, higher compliance to treatment, the successful rate of self-care, overall improved health status. Improving health literacy will also produce better efficiency and cost-effectiveness to healthcare systems. Improving health literacy does not require the use of extra resources.

Healthcare staff should always be advocating for a patient’s health literacy. Health literacy should always be incorporated into facilities programs, policies, plans and research. Individuals should always be advocating and educating for their friends and families’ health literacy also. If we know that our friends and family have a low health literacy we know that they are less likely to be able to manage their health status on their own. If they have chronic diseases they will be more likely to be hospitalized frequently. This, in turn, causes them to have a negative health outcome and increases the healthcare cost as a whole. Individuals that have a high proficiency in health literacy tend to have better health status. Remember that there are exceptions to every rule, there can be individuals that have proficient health literacy but have a poor health status.

With today’s technology, many individuals can educate themselves on health literacy. After a visit with a physician, many individuals can research what they are told and get a wealth of information to assist them in understanding their condition. If an individual has a low health literacy they usually have support from family or friends that can research the information for them. It is very important to one’s health to have a better knowledge of health literacy.