October is a month with many awareness campaigns attached to it. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Down Syndrome Awareness month, Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness month, Eye Injury Prevention and Awareness month, and Health Literacy Awareness month.
Wait…what was that last one? Health literacy?
Health literacy, according to the definition coined by the Institute of Medicine, is “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” The NNLM expands upon this definition:
“Health literacy is not simply the ability to read. It requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytical, and decision-making skills, and the ability to apply these skills to health situations. For example, it includes the ability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctor’s directions and consent forms, and the ability to negotiate complex health care systems.”
You may be thinking that health literacy isn’t much of a problem; everyone can follow a doctor’s instructions, right? You’re wrong. Research shows that an estimated 36% of American adults would have trouble with, or be unable to, understand the instructions printed on a prescription medication bottle. Around 89% would have trouble understanding healthcare insurance forms. Limited health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs. We’ve created the following infographic to help illustrate the problem.