My subject is a little different than the traditional literacy. The book I chose is “Health Literacy From A To Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message” by Helen Osborne, who is a Occupational Therapist with Master degree in education, and also the president of Health Literacy Consulting.

During past decades there are more and more studies of “literacy in a specific field”, such as digital literacy or media literacy. And “health” is one of the subject. Although the early focus was traditionally on the “read and write abilities of patients in clinical settings”, recently the study extends it’s meaning to the definition that is not just reading and writing, and not just within the hospital.

However, HL still contains a lot about reading and writing in a specific discipline (health). I think it might be an interesting idea to bring something different, broader the discussion about literacy but also connect all the things we learn from this course. This book has 42 chapters so I will read about 4 chapters a day and write a summary/review about it.

In general, health literacy (HL) refers to “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions”. I think this definition presents different levels/steps of being “literate”:

1. able to read/write or communicate
2. able to access any kinds of health service/information
3. able to analyze or judge those information
4. able to make a proper decision
5. able, or have enough motivation to DO it and gain a better health status

In addition, just like any other fields of literacy, HL is all about the “provider”, the “receiver”, and the “message”. Whether they are doctor-patient, teacher-student or policymaker-community member, the goal is to promote health understanding hence the health condition through communication.

There are many researches show that HL is getting more important nowadays. First, the face-to-face time between information receiver and professional provider is less and shorter, while chances to access messages from ads or online forums are more. Second, lower HL results poorer health outcome, such as longer hospitalization. Third, lower HL results higher financial cost, both from institutions and individuals.

But overall, I think the most important reason the makes HL so important is that, because health is an issue of all human beings. You could choose not to be “digital”, or even have no contact with any “media”, but everyone must face his/her own health issue sooner or later.

Back to the clinical settings, there are debates about whether to test patients’ literacy level to offer needed help, or not to do it to avoid making people have lower HL feel anxious or ashamed. But if anyone wants to do the test, many assessment tools have already been proofed useful, such as REALM or TOFHLA. However, it’s not just about people who can’t read well. Age, disability, language, culture, SES, an even emotion affect our HL (imaging maintain “literate” when you hear you have cancer!)

It’s not just the message receivers that matter. Writing easy-to-read materials or offer enough resources from the providers is also important.

And a lot more from the book (and myself) to be continued!

Questions for thinking:

1. Are you for or against testing patients’ literacy level in clinical settings? Why?
2. Have you had any healthy experiences that made you feel helpless, bewildered and “illiterate”?
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uht

the Breakfast Club

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  • 訪客
  • Hi,

    I like the setup of your page, it makes me work and pay attention! It will be interesting if I can send you my comment.

    I had no idea that there was something called Health Literacy. However, now that we are using the term literacy as fluency, it makes sense. Your point that literacy in healthy is extremely important is very very true. Understanding all the details is essential for making the correct diagnosis. And so often there are stories of people not getting better or children diagnosed incorrectly. Fluency, literacy is more important than ever, since medicine is making rapid progress.

    Thank you for making me more aware of what is happening out there!
  • drytoad
  • Interesting subject matter. I look forward to reading more of your blog. As far as testing patients literacy level, hmm I can't really see real benefit from doing so.
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