Introduction to Health Literacy: A Barrier to Patient Education
Wilson Justin Teh
BSN – 3B
Ateneo de Davao University
Background of the Study
Poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level, and race. There is a high correlation between the ability to read and health literacy, but it is important to recognize that patients who are fully literate may be health illiterate (American Medical Association). Nowadays, knowledge is vital for maintaining and achieving optimum health.
The concept of health literacy has come to the forefront in healthcare. Health literacy is defined as: "The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions" (Ratzen &Park, 2000). Half of our population has limited literacy skills, which affects health literacy. To determine the extent of this impact, the Institute of Medicine formed a committee to examine health literacy. As nurses we need to use this knowledge about health literacy to assist our patients in understanding their health and interacting with the healthcare system.
Health literacy has three components (Baker DW (1999)).: First, literacy: a lack of capacity to read, write, communicate, or solve problems which affects the ability of an individual to gain necessary knowledge of health and health systems; Second, comprehension: a lack of capacity to understand how health and health care services are structured and operate to meet health and health care needs and how they can be accessed; and third, participation: a lack of capacity to follow a course of treatment or self-management that will improve health and wellbeing, or change behaviour to prevent disease processes starting or progressing. These components may not be anything new, but they do help to clarify what the purpose of any interventions to promote health literacy and prevent the consequence of its absence for individuals within a wider population, as well as for the public health and health care professionals who work with them. It may be old fashioned, but it is almost possible to recognize a primary, secondary and tertiary preventative approach could be applied to such components.
The researchers were puzzled whether the patient who is illiterate has been taking the correct patient education from the nurses. The researchers decided to have such study to know the difference of the recovery and health process between the literate and illiterate patients among the Medical and Surgical Ward at Davao Medical Center. According to Parker(2003), health and health care are increasingly characterized by technological sophistication, and choice by "informed" consumers is of growing importance in the market. Patients who are better informed about their options and who understand the evidence behind certain approaches to care may have better health outcomes. Those without adequate understanding-without adequate health literacy-cannot function successfully in a market designed for active, informed consumers. They are the ones most likely to be left behind. Problems with health literacy are extremely common and costly; more than half of the individuals are experiencing problems to read and understand the information needed to function in the health care system.
Being exposed to a public hospital setting, the researchers handle different patients with different levels of intellectual capacity. In most instances, patients who are illiterate make the incorrect decisions regarding health care and sometimes, it affects their recovery or health status. It becomes a huge barrier to proper health care. The researchers are going to assess the lack of information and nursing interventions the hospital has...