My mission is to facilitate the medical communication between health care providers and patients with low health literacy.
What is health literacy?
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand, and effectively use health-related information.
How is low health literacy a problem?
Patients with low literacy in the United States have serious and widespread communication difficulties with their health providers. Physician-patient communication is considered a fundamental aspect of medical care, however patients commonly have difficulty in understanding medical instructions from physicians because physicians often use medical jargons, deliver too much information at a time, and do not confirm patients' understanding of what was discussed. At the end of the medical visit, patients barely remember what the physician tried to explain, and they may be uncertain about what steps to take next. Similarly, patients with low health literacy have troubles to clearly explain their symptoms to physicians because they have less familiarity with medical concepts and vocabularies. It is can be a fatal problem since the clear presentation of symptom is essential for proper diagnosis. Furthermore, physicians commonly overestimate patients' literacy levels, and they rarely consider limited literacy skills as a factor that effects patients’ health outcome.
What are the consequences of low health literacy?
Patients with limited health literacy are more likely to have troubles with health care including: Lack of knowledge of basic self-care Lack of awareness of preventive health measures Inability to read the labels of prescription and over-the-counter medications Misunderstanding of medical information (informed consent, patient history, and health insurance applications appointment slips etc) Uncertainty over how to use the health care system effectively Higher rate of using emergency rooms and experiencing longer hospital stays Lower levels of overall patient satisfaction
Who are the people affected by the problem I am addressing?
Adults over the age of 65 have more limited literacy proficiency than younger, working adults. Individuals without a high school diploma or GED have lower levels of literacy proficiency than those with a high school diploma or education beyond high school. Immigrants (mostly Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic) from non-English speaking nations or non-industrialized areas have more likely to have limited literacy. Low-income and homeless individuals.
English as a primary language?
Many individuals receiving care from the U.S health-care system have limited English proficiency. The 2000 census indicates that the foreign-born population in the United States is 31 million. More than 300 different languages are spoken in the United States, and 47 million citizens and non-citizens speak a language other than English at home. English is not the primary language spoken in the homes of 41 percent of Hispanics, 34 percent of Koreans, 29 percent of Vietnamese, and 20 percent of Chinese.
About 90 million adults in the US have literacy skills that test below high school level (NALS Levels 1 and 2). Of these, about 40- 44 million (NALS Level 1) have difficulty finding information in unfamiliar or complex texts such as medical labels, forms or charts.
- The National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) is a comprehensive study of adult literacy conducted by the Educational Testing Service of the U.S. Department of Education. The study measured the English literacy skills of a random sample of over 26,000 individuals in the United States aged 16 years and older.
New York City: One of the most diverse cities in the world in terms of the variety of races and spoken languages.
Literacy Assistance Center: LAC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the expansion of quality literacy services in New York.