This month marks the 20th anniversary of Health Literacy Month and this year, more than ever, the ability of people to understand and act upon health information is critical. Studies consistently show that a significant number of people have problems reading, understanding, and acting on health information, and there are a number of reasons why. To start, health information is inherently complex, and healthcare providers are not necessarily skilled communicators.
In addition, patients have a wide range of learning needs based on their personal health and care requirements – some individuals have more complex health issues than others. Add to that basic literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context, and emotional responses — they all affect the way people receive and process information. How people understand and act upon the information they receive, in turn, has a direct impact on health outcomes and cost.
Launched in 1999 by Helen Osborne, president of Health Literacy Consulting, Health Literacy Month is a time when hospitals, health centers, literacy programs, libraries, social service agencies, businesses, professional associations, government agencies, consumer alliances, and many other groups work collaboratively to draw attention to the importance of clearly communicating health information so that people can accurately process and understand it.
Here at Community Health Connections, we take health information communication very seriously. Our diverse patient base makes it imperative that we focus on the best ways to provide clear, concise information in a number of ways and on a variety of platforms. Our goal is to ensure that individuals and families who entrusts us with their health care can clearly understand the diagnoses we provide, the treatments we recommend, and the health and wellness information we provide to help them lead happier, healthier lives.
Health literacy is not just something we’re talking about during the month of October. It’s vital all year long, year after year. We’re working hard to make our communication efforts simpler, easier to understand, and delivered in ways that are convenient and timely for our patients. If you have questions or suggestions, we welcome them.