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Be a Health Literacy Hero — This Month and Always

Be a Health Literacy Hero — This Month and Always

Health literacy heroes have special superpowers, but sometimes they don’t get the respect they deserve. October is Health Literacy Month, and it’s the perfect time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information.

A Serious Issue

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy reports that nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using routine health information. That’s a pretty scary statistic!

What’s even scarier is the fact that most people forget a lot of what their doctor told them by the time they hop in their cars and make their way home. Research also shows that people with basic health literacy are more likely to report their health as poor, less likely to have health insurance, more likely to make emergency room visits, have a higher rate of hospitalization and are less likely to comply with treatment plans.

All of that contributes to increased healthcare costs: roughly $13,000 per year for low literacy vs. $3,000 per year for high literacy levels.

Practical Strategies

Don’t fret, though. It’s never too late to learn how to communicate health information more effectively and clearly

Here are some tips on using your X-ray vision to identify good practices and beam that information out to everyone.

Avoid the one-size-fits-all approach. Take the time to learn about your audience and develop materials and programs accordingly.

Keep it simple. Focus on the ”need to know” and “need to do” rather than the “nice to know” details. For example, give specific steps for keeping foods safe. Detailed descriptions of bacteria that cause food-borne illness may not be necessary.

Find the right words. Use words with one or two syllables. Keep most sentences between 8-10 words and limit paragraphs to three-to-five sentences.

Be consistent and clear. Clearly state the actions you want the person to take. Emphasize behaviors and skills that will lead to the desired outcomes rather than only facts. For example, instead of “Don’t lift anything heavy,” use “Don’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk (about 8 pounds).”

Appeal to different learning styles. Some people prefer to hear the information, some prefer to read it and others want to see it. Choosing the right learning style can be beneficial for both teaching and motivating change.

Let Wax help awaken the health literacy giant within you. Contact us at (305) 350-5700, or visit waxcom.com.