Health Literacy Month

Oct 8, 2015

If you pick up two prescriptions from the pharmacy and one drug’s label says “take twice a day,” and the second one says “take every 12 hours,” does that mean the same thing? And could you take both medications together?

Unsure? You’re not alone.

Health Literacy is defined by Mayo Clinic as the ability to read, understand and act upon health information. A significant gap exists between the way health care issues are communicated and the ability of most people to understand them.  According to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using routine health information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with healthcare providers to help them make the health information they share more accurate, accessible and actionable for their patients.

The National Patient Safety Foundation has developed the “Ask Me 3” formula for patients to improve their communication with their providers. They encourage patients to ask: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this? People who understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They may also get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is the Director of Health Communication at Southeast Missouri State University.

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