Health Literacy and Education

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. dults 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 third of them were unable to read basic health materials.

Notably, 20% of the clients could not read their appointment slips and even more astounding, 40% could not understand the labels on their prescriptions. Other studies showed that people of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels are challenged by low health literacy (McCray, 2005). Most clinics and hospitals are notorious for passing out several ‘handouts’ containing various literatures focused towards medical conditions and the overall treatments and general information, but if 40% cannot even read the correct dosing, how will they manage to read the handouts?

Low health literacy can be included as part of the nursing diagnosis or a factor to implement when developing nursing interventions. Not only can you use this in your assessment plan, but you can spread the word through teaching another student nurse by way of education and promotion (Bryant, 2011). Nurses of today are the way of the future. We are role models for students and clients. Teaching others along with patient feedback, and return demonstrations allows for better knowledge and understanding.

Evidence-based strategies may also help to promote health literacy, and have a huge need, thus should be incorporated in mostly every patient’s plan of care and become part of the routine practice of nursing (Bevan & Pecchioni, 2008). The goal from the health care team member should be to enable to clients to understand the information in which they receive and act accordingly based on what is most needed for optimal health. Results of the NAAL (White, 2008) confirm findings on the significance of health literacy for health status and the effects of factors such as income and education of the same relation.

These results suggest that the noted variables have a significant effect between health literacy and health status but do not in themselves completely account for it. Others researches have commented on the possibility that literacy may modify the well known relation between ethnicity and health status (Baker et al, 2007). These results again confirm that taking health literacy into account may reduce the magnitude of the relation between ethnicity and health, but it does not eliminate the relation between education and income and health.

The association between health literacy and education is the knowledge and self efficacies that may be important factors to influence an individual’s participation in self-management activities toward a healthy lifestyle (Bevan & Pecchioni, 2008). All members of the health care team need to be informed by the constant impact health literacy has based on the education by way of word or materials that are provided. Whether it is better hands-on-demonstrations and providing positive feedback, or simply making way for enhancement of negligent self care for both acute and chronic health conditions.

There is a need for future testing on interventions designed to increase self-efficacy and knowledge needed to explore more causal links between these factors (McCleary-Jones, 2011). Throughout this research, health literacy predicts variable reasons and cases of health behaviors and the projected outcomes of chronic conditions, including mortality (Bryant, 2011). The reason is not cut and dry. There are several factors and variables that are known to be related to the issue.

Education, race, ethnicity, income, those are all related but literacy may be better enhanced by the individuals reading habits, health behaviors such as diet and exercise, and the general knowledge of health and the human body (Bevan & Pecchioni, 2008). Health Literacy has been related to many health outcomes and from a number of diseases, such as diabetes and the negligence of self care management, not to mention they are also associated with the greater need and use of health care services aiding to higher health care costs.

The elderly are known to have more chronic health conditions and poorer mental health, than those with better health literacy. This can even increase the risks of mortality (Bryant, 2011). Becoming health literate is an ongoing process that develops over time through a range of health experiences and encounters within different health contexts. The focus of health literacy in general is helpful in understanding the basic of development in health literacy and the outcomes it plays in health. We all need to strive in promoting health literacy just for ourselves but for our future.

One day, our children and their children will inherit our planet. Furthermore, upon developing this paper, health literacy and education has been the main focus and starts from the ground up. It stems from our health care team and outwards facing the clients. The framework that surrounds health literacy as an outcome of education, needs restructured to provide better content via methods of information. Knowledge can be spread just by talking. Everyone does not have the time to sit down and write a blog or a book, or speak at conferences, but you can still help spread what you know.

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