By Mary Gynn, RN, BSN, MSN, MS, MPH Diabetes Educator
“The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy”
Healthcare is changing dramatically for those who seek care and those who deliver it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has brought healthcare coverage to millions of consumers who previously could not afford or did not want health insurance. Now the health benefit experience will present them and others with a variety of choices and complexities to consider. Those choices will be difficult if they don’t have an understanding of what’s being said or written and they’re making those choices for the first time.
Presently, consumers are overwhelmed by the flood of information and decisions that need to be made. Health Literacy can play a huge role in providing understandable communications between the consumer and their healthcare provider.
The growing pressure on health systems is to reduce, ration and delay health services to contain health costs. But people are living longer creating more time for minor dysfunctions to develop into disabling chronic diseases. Health literacy or people’s ability to obtain, process, communicate and understand basic health information and services is essential to those actions. Yet, few American are proficient in understanding available health information.
The Health Literate Care Model article cited: Health Education Behavior, December 2013, 40:6635-639. “The Public Health Journey: The Meaning and the Moment” by Howard Koh, Cindy Brach, Linda Harris, Michael Pearlman, calls for health professionals to approach all patients with the assumption that they are at risk of not understanding their health conditions or how to deal with them. Health Literacy would then become a value that is used in all aspects of planning and clinical information systems.
Howard Koh, MD, MPH, wrote when he was Assistant Secretary for Health , “As a result, I’ve observed the difficulties many people face as they attempt to use our health care systems. When people receive accurate, easy to use information about a health issue, they are better able to take action to protect and promote their health and wellness.
Improving health literacy, that is, the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions is critical to achieving the objectives set forth in Healthy People 2020, 2021, and 2022.
The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy envisions a restructuring of the ways we create and disseminate all types of health information in this country. The Plan also calls us to ensure that all children graduate with health literacy skills that will help them live healthier throughout their lifespan. It seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals and families in a linked effort to improve health literacy. Its plan is to provide everyone with access to accurate and actionable health information and supports lifelong learning and skills to promote good health.
It has been my experience as a RN Community Health Educator that Prediabetics and Diabetics who were diagnosed in the past still have basic questions that should have been dealt with for the successful at home self-management of their disease. It was my good luck and search to find the Florida Literacy Coalition to join those who have wisdom, insight, research, technicians and practices within the world of family and adult health literacy.
The Florida Literacy Coalition has knowledge of the problem as the health delivery system continues to drastically change, the education of health professionals continues to change, as new medications are discovered and the cost of care continues to soar. Tomorrow’s health care systems are destined to change.
Mary Gynn, RN
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