Health Literacy

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This year marks one of the most significant years in the history of the United States of America. The election of 2008 will set in motion a new era for the US. With a lame duck president currently in office there is a 100 percent chance that things are going to change. One of the hot button issues during the campaign season is health care. However, in order to change health care, the United States must first be health literate. In order to do so the following should be known: the definition of health literacy, what health literacy skills are and why they are important, the history behind health literacy, and how health literacy affects the economy. First, to become health literate one must know the definition of this term. Being health literate does not mean hitting the gym everyday or trying the latest greatest fad diet. Health literacy can best be 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 (2000).” It really is quite basic in definition but is somehow being overlooked in the United States today. The big problem is not that US citizens are making unwise choices when it comes to health care. The big problem is that US citizens do not know how to get the information about the right decisions, process a right or wrong decision or even understand basic information that relates the to health care and other health services. According to the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, health literacy includes the following: “The ability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctor 's directions and consent forms, and the ability to negotiate complex health care systems (Glassman, 2008).” Be wary of the term literacy. Being health literate is not just having the ability to read. Health literacy “requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytical,


References: AMA Foundation, (2007, September 04). Health literacy. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from Health Literacy Web site: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/8115.html Glassman, Penny (2008, January 17). Health literacy. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from Health Literacy Web site: http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html The Center for Health Care Strategies and National Academy on an Aging Society, (1998). Fact sheet. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from National Academy on an Aging Society Web site: http://www.agingsociety.org/agingsociety/publications/fact/fact_low.html United States Department of Health and Human Services, (2000). Healthy People 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from Healthy People 2010 Web site: http://www.healthypeople.gov/Document/pdf/uih/2010uih.pdf

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