Monday, October 26, 2009

October is HEALTH LITERACY month!!

I know I'm late in reporting this but better late than never! :-)

So, what is Health Literacy anyway and what's it's relationship to Occupational Therapy?

Glad you asked!! First, a website for reference--

Second, a definition: long story short, Health Literacy is understanding health information.

How many times have you or a loved one been to the doctor and received instructions and medicine, only to go home and find out that you have no idea what to do with the medicine or you don't remember or understand any of the terms the doctor said to you? Did the doctor say take the blue pill in the morning or in the evening? Was it with a meal or before a meal? Was it biweekly as in 2x a week or 2x a month? Did she say stop taking this medicine when symptoms stop or after I've taken all the pills in the bottle? Can I take this on an empty stomach?

AAAUUUGGHHHH!!! This happens ALL the time and it's time it stops NOW!

With so much information available to us and with recognizing how important our health is there's no reason why anyone should leave a health care facility and not understand what's going on with their OWN health.

A bigger problem that frustrates me is that many people can't read. Yes, you read that right (thank God YOU can read). Millions of respectable people with good jobs and loving families CAN'T READ. They listen to their health care professional use large, industry-specific words like neutrophils and greater tubercle of the humerus and vertebrae and potassium chloride and heart striations and they are CONFUSED.

They can't fill out their medical paperwork and they somehow fake it through. Instead of asking their health care professional questions for clarification they nod their head, take their medications and/or instructions and go home and try to work it all out.

We watched a video of this in class of ARTICULATE, good-looking people who couldn't read and were confused. They went home and damaged their health further!!! The reading level of the average American is 8th grade level. WHAT???!!!

Also, health care pros COME ON!!! You know average people don't know words like scapula, flexion, phalanges, macrophages, humoral response, and so on. WHY WOULD YOU SPEAK TO SOMEONE THIS WAY??? You add to the problem and make it worse.

As health care professionals we need to be cognizant of our client's literacy levels and make the effort to ensure they understand. This includes asking them to repeat instructions back to us, demonstrating actions to them, using SIMPLE language, asking them to demonstrate what we've explained to them, and speaking slowly.

Clients! I encourage you to ASK your health care professional questions. If they are unwilling to answer you FIND A NEW HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL. Your health is not worth their impatience or stupidity now is it????

I mean really, how many chances do you have to get your health in order???

(btw, I'm not shouting with all the caps, exclamation & question marks and bold letters. I'm just excited!!!!)

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