Health Literacy and Education

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Health literacy was first established in 1974. At this time, it was a discussion based on health education and the policies affecting the health care system. (Simonds, 1974, cited in Ratzan, 2001, p. 21). Different definitions of health literacy exist all around us. It is commonly referred to a person’s capability and capacity to gain and understand the basics of written and oral health care information, as well as appropriate services needed (Ratzan and Parker, 2000). The term literacy basically means the person has the ability to read and write, and a literate person has the capability of understanding what is read or written and incorporates this into a simple or general sentence (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, p. 15).

The field of health literacy began in the 1990s in conjunction of the awareness that education and health were strongly and widely linked (White, 2008). In the health care setting, it is imperative to be able to assess the literacy status of our clients to the best of their ability. Seeking this status will allow for common mistakes associated with low health literacy such as poor nurse communication and poor physician communication that directly affects the clients care, leading to inadequate medical care (AMA, 2007). Americans today, being the melting pot that we are, have an especially high prevalence of low literacy.

According to the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Literacy for the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association (1999), the presence of low health literacy disables Americans from accessing, understanding and using health related information to better service the health needs. It costs the public health system a substantial amount per year a whopping $18.2 million in inefficient and /or misunderstood health-care services (Healthy People 2010, 2009). This financial number alone could be plenty enough to aide starving children and adolescence across the world, let alone be put to good use. Our jobs of being nurses that teach; students being the client’s in this sake, are failing us just based by the statics of these reports.

The first ever National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) did a study in 2007 that showed less than 13 percent of U.S. adults had proficient health literacy and on average over 78 million people would have complications with simple health tasks, such as following basic prescription drug label directions. This limited health literacy most doubtfully affects adults in all ethnic and racial groups of America (White, 2008). Some researchers also described specific links between literacy and health that may be directly linked to limited literacy skills (Baker et al., 2007) that show those with low health literacy levels tend to be knowledge deficient and are negligent in self care towards chronic conditions. A study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northern California from 2000 to 2008, which demonstrated dissatisfaction regarding their education on breast cancer. If it were for better knowledge of preventive services, many women would be more inclined to use the services (Kwan et al., 2012); such as cancer screenings, along with the risks for hospital admission to decrease the growing number of cancers. Health literacy has been related to health outcomes in a number of diseases and poor health (Baker et al., 2007) and with higher health costs in Medicare enrollees.

Results from researching this topic show that mostly all adults, regardless of their health literacy abilities, most likely received health information from news stations such as the radio or television, friends and or family members, and health care professionals rather than from print materials (Speros, 2011). This type of media is not the most accurate source of information and should not be the only guiding light the clients receives and relies on. Carmona (2007) reported that a study of public health clients indicated that one...
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