Managing your health can be complicated. Every day, we face situations that involve life-changing decisions about our health. Research shows that today’s health information is hard to understand and use to make good decisions. But health information and services don’t have to be so complicated. It helps to be a savvy consumer.
How can you get the most from health information and services?
First, know the law. As of this year, government agencies must use plain language when they communicate with the public about critical benefits and services. If you find government health information that isn’t in plain language, you can contact that agency and ask them to make it clear.
Second, clear communication is part of the “health reform,” the most significant change to health policy in decades. Soon, health insurance companies will be required to tell you about coverage and benefits in plain language. You may also find “patient navigators,” people who can help you find your way through the maze of healthcare.
Third, when you go to the doctor, clinic or hospital, ask them to use plain language when they talk to you and ask for plain language patient information. You can take a list of questions and ask for clear answers and explanations.
Why is health literacy important?
- Nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using the everyday health information that is routinely available in our healthcare facilities, retail outlets, media and communities.
- Without clear information and an understanding of the information’s importance, people are more likely to skip necessary medical tests, end up in the emergency room more often, and have a harder time managing chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Enjoy your best health becoming more health literate.