October is Health Literacy Month. Health literacy is understanding health information and being able to take action on it. The better we understand health information, the better we can take action on it.
Looking for health information is one of the things people do most often on the internet. But sometimes surfing the web leads to misinformation and misunderstandings. The better our health literacy, the better we’re able to evaluate the health information we find and the sources we use.
Health literacy is important for children — but it’s just as important for adults. As parents, as caregivers for our own parents, and as the people with primary responsibility for our own health now and in the future, we need a high level of health literacy.
What can we do, as health professionals and as consumers, to improve health literacy?
- Explain health concepts in ordinary language.
- Health professionals use special language to be very exact in meaning. If you, as a patient, don’t know a word, ask.
- In fact, ask questions!
- Read the information on this and other reputable health care sites.
- Ask your community librarian for books that explain health topics clearly.
- Encourage schools to include health education in their curriculum.
- Read nutrition labels, warning and safety messages, and other health information in consumer packaging.
- Support research into health issues.
- Inform yourself about health myths — check claims and find out the facts.
- Encourage and appreciate organizations that share health information clearly.
- Ask insurance companies, pharmacies, and other sources of health information in your life to provide clear information.
Click on the infographic below to see it larger.