How Health Literacy Affects a Persons Health Behaviors

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Due to a general improvement in education standards, it is often assumed that everyone possesses some basic form of health literacy. Understanding a medical prescription or sticking to a strict diet prescribed by a doctor may not seem like a complex undertaking to most people. However, there are people within our community who are unable process even the most basic health information without the help of a relative or close friend. Without getting into the details of the factors which limit their health literacy, it has already been proven that the lack of health literacy negatively affects a person’s health behaviors. People with low health literacy are less likely to understand oral or written information given by health professionals. This is glaringly evident among the elderly population or people who are not native speakers (speak English as a second language). Such people are more likely to mix up the prescriptions given by a doctor, ignore important health information and in some occasions refuse to seek treatment for their ailments. Their refusal to seek health treatment is sometimes not voluntary; they are simply daunted by the prospect of navigating a “complex” health system. The countless procedures, appointment schedules and prescriptions appear like insurmountable challenges. People with low health literacy prefer to seek health services from publicly financed programs instead of going to the private sector which offers better quality of care. Financial ability is often identified as the main reason why certain people opt for publicly financed programs but their health literacy also influences this decision. Public programs like Medicaid are perceived to be more suited for people of low income but the reality is the cost of care at Medicaid is comparable to a majority of private sector programs. Medicaid patients perceive it to be more ‘reliable’ and they ignore private healthcare mostly because of the fear of navigating a ‘new’ healthcare system....
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