Health Literacy

Feb. 20, 2024

You may have heard of the term health literacy recently. Personal health literacy is people’s ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. 9 out of 10 Americans have limited health literacy, which is linked to poor health outcomes such as longer hospital stays, chronic conditions, and trouble managing them. 

According to the definition of health literacy, you first must be able to find information and services. AZHEALTHTXT is an excellent source of credible, timely health information. Other trusted, credible organizations can be local, statewide, or national. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Director’s Blog posts health information and alerts, which you can receive in your email. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website allows you to search any health topic to find detailed information. Sources like Mayo Clinic have information to help you learn more about different diseases and conditions, drugs and supplements, and even symptoms. Health-promoting organizations are plentiful, and searching the internet for your needs and location can yield many useful results. The internet is an excellent way to find health-related information from various sources, but knowing how to distinguish a trusted source from an untrustworthy one is key. Use this article as a quick guide to determine if a source is trusted.  

The second part of health literacy is understanding the information and services that you have found. Just because a source is trusted does not mean the information is easily understandable, especially as it applies to our health and the health of loved ones. Sometimes it is necessary to seek other sources that can more easily translate health information. YouTube is an excellent source to find credible sources such as academic, medical, and government organizations that will explain the health information you find in audiovisual format. For example, this video by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan gives a quick overview of what health literacy is. 

The third part of health literacy is using the information you find and understand, to apply it to health-related decisions you will make going forward. Speaking to healthcare providers can be intimidating, but there are many tips you can use to improve communication with your provider. Consider making a list of topics you want to address or questions you have. Bring supplements, medications, and other remedies you use to learn about potential interactions and dosage. Also consider taking a pen and paper to write down important information during your appointments. During your appointment, be sure to answer questions honestly and ask questions if you are unsure about what your provider says. You can also ask your provider for written or printed instructions.  

More tips for improving communication with your provider can be found here:  

Achieving health literacy is a process that is critical to maintaining optimal health and functioning effectively within the healthcare system. This means more health, less confusion and stress related to adverse health, and better outcomes for you and your family.