What Is Health Literacy and Why Is It Important

What Is Health Literacy and Why Is It Important people running in new york

Patient education is a big part of medical practice. As patients, you can do so much more for your health than just simply wait for the doctor to give you instructions on how to act and what pills to take. An important part of patient education is health literacy.

As soon as you get more insight on what health literacy is, you’ll find out why it is so closely connected to health outcomes and patient satisfaction as well.

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the responsibility of each individual. It is the way in which each individual treats basic health information and services. This is the capacity of the individual to obtain and communicate, process, and understand these pieces of information in order to reach the right health decisions.

A lot of requirements are parts of health literacy. For instance, you should be able to compare various health plans or prescription drug premiums. Knowing the human body and having numeric proficiency are both essential here. You may be required to understand the nutrition labels or to calculate cholesterol. These things aren’t always easy, but they can be mastered.

The low health literacy problem

Unfortunately, most people have no idea how health literacy works or why it’s important. Up to 90% of adults don’t know how to manage their own health. This is a serious issue since it doesn’t help at all when it comes to illness prevention. This also implies that most patients don’t have the necessary knowledge to fill out complex forms, understand medication instruction, or navigate the healthcare system.

These issues mostly affect older adults, people with not-so-high levels of education, and racial and ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, all of these groups can help issues with health literacy, as crucial factors for this are access to resources, language, education, and culture.

Poor health outcomes

The first reason why this is such an important matter is that low health literacy may be linked to poor health outcomes. When you think about it, this is quite logical. If you are able to observe your health conditions and communicate them properly to a professional, you get a chance to prevent a disease from occurring.

On the other hand, failing to recognize some symptoms or ignoring and neglecting them can lead to more serious health issues. Failing to react on time can also be a huge problem. For these reasons, you risk ending up with poorer health outcomes when you don’t have health literacy.

Consulting the professionals

Communication may be the best way to deal with this issue if you feel like you’re not satisfied with your health literacy. However, you should be careful who you talk to when it comes to matters as important as health. That is why consulting medical professionals is never a bad idea.

If you suspect you might have heart issues, make sure to talk to a cardiologist and let him explain the situation to you. Don’t just listen – make sure to explain how you see the problem and come to a solution together. If you’re worried about your spine, go to Briz Brain & Spine, and if you have sight issues, schedule an ophthalmologist appointment soon!

Not using the preventative services

Another problem caused by poor health literacy is that many individuals fail to use preventative services. For example, mammograms and pap smears are the services every woman should take. Pap smears are vital for detecting cervical cancer.

Not doing these on time can cause a lot of preventable trouble for many women. Another example of this is the flu shot. Failing to recognize the importance of a flu shot can damage an individual’s health, as well as the healthcare system.

Increased rates of hospitalisation

Finally, all of this poor health management can lead to increased rates of hospitalisation. In such times like this one, when a pandemic is going on, emergency service use shouldn’t be neglected.

However, it often is. That means that we could have preventable hospitalisations happening all the time. This is a huge issue since it is unnecessarily taking up the space and resources for matters that may have not been as preventable.


While health literacy may seem irrelevant, the truth is the complete opposite. Your doctor is there to cure you and improve your health, but he or she doesn’t have to do it without your help!



Article by Patrick Adams

Patrick is a proud member of Alejandra’s Life Family Team


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