3 Reasons Why Health Literacy Matters
We’ve been making a big push in advocating for health literacy. As what you and our other readers may have read before in our previous blog post, 3 Tips Perfect for Boosting Health Literacy, improving the capability to interpret and make use of health instructions can lead to better retirement plans.
Today, we’d like to focus more on the importance of these skills in society as a whole. More than in helping one prepare for the golden years, we’d like to point out the many benefits that one can reap from having the proper knowledge and mindset when it comes to health care and wellbeing. We hope that the advocacy we’ve been promoting this month will indeed help – everyone deserves the peace of mind and convenience, whatever and whenever they may be in their life.
1) It’s a Social Issue
As previously discussed, a significant amount of individuals in the country are having trouble understanding medical jargon and treatment plans or procedures. With more than 77 million (and rising) people in the country with inadequate health literacy skills, the risk of wrong medication and incorrect treatment for diseases and the like is high.
Aside from misdiagnosis, the stigma associated with poor literacy skills is also an issue that should be addressed. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the lack of health literacy can be visibly and significantly seen in racial and ethnic groups (Asians, Native American, multi-racial adults, etc.). This is a major concern that should alarm everyone – categorized as such, this would mean that a large (and again, increasing) number of people and groups in the country are now exposed to the perils and consequences of poor literacy in health instructions!
Additionally, the lack of knowledge when it comes to treatment and other health care industry terminologies can be linked to educational attainment. Matching the figures of the increasing rate of inadequacy would mean that the country definitively needs to improve on the school/education system.
In as well, the connection between education and the skill to interpret health instructions may also lead to a link to one’s financial standing. Insufficient funds or the lack of the proper resources can also be related – proving as well that the interconnection and gap between the rich and the poor is apparent in the country today.
Highlighting more on the stigma, the lack of health literacy, financial resources, and educational attainment may also mean for one losing the drive to seek out the necessary means to improve or treat his or herself. A study done by the Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, revealed that people with these limited skill set and resources are more likely to hide in shame, therefore avoiding access to treatment and support.
As such, limited health literacy can be a mirror of society. It’s a reflection of what needs to be improved upon, not only for one’s benefit but an entire nation as a whole as well. Aside from having government and local support groups step up in providing accessible and comprehensible health information, doctors and medical experts need also to consider taking necessary steps in sending a message across. As cited by a post in The Good Men Project, doctors need to reach out and take a proactive approach to these “limited” individuals, even before considering them as “patients.” A “people-first” or “patient-centric” perspective needs to be promoted for everyone to have access to the proper comprehension and handling of medical and health management.
2) The Baby Boomer Case
Now, let’s focus more on those who belong to the baby boom generation. Individuals age 65 years and above are more likely to have limited health literacy skills. As compared to younger generations, the decline in comprehension scales when one’s age increases.
The comparison then means that without the proper tools or preparation, boomers are more likely to lose money, face more diseases, or will not have the necessary means to treat a disorder during the twilight years.
3) Retirement Solutions to Prepare for the Golden Years
As such, one of the best ways still on how to improve health literacy is incorporating and prioritizing retirement planning. Learning more about insurance policies, such as Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI) and Medicare Supplements (Medigap) can offer applicants an avenue to dip into health care industry essentials. An LTCI will allow one to learn more about custodial care, a necessity especially for boomers during the retirement years. Medigap plans will not only provide one some financial relief by helping pay for out-of-pocket medical costs (such as copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance fees). It’ll also help one realize the many possible areas to consider for health coverage, even during trips abroad (depending on the chosen Medigap policy – there are ten standardized plans to choose from – a foreign travel coverage benefit may be included).
Regardless of which retirement solution one takes the time to understand, the point of the matter is that interest and learning are done. And that is exactly what is needed to improve health literacy!
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