October is Health Literacy Month

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News Release
 
For Immediate Release: 10/3/2022
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CONTACT
Barb Tyler, Office of Communications, (531) 530-7484,
barb.tyler@nebraska.gov

Attention News-Room Managers: The clip provided includes a soundbite from Charity Menefee, DHHS Director of Public Health for Operations: YouTube https://youtu.be/J1m0l6cY_Sc  ​

 
LINCOLN -- According to studies, more than 40% of Americans have difficulty obtaining, processing, and understanding basic healthcare information, which is necessary for making informed decisions. For more than 20 years, October has been recognized as Health Literacy Month, a time of international observance when hospitals, health centers, literacy programs, libraries, social service agencies, businesses, professional associations, govern­ment agencies, consumer alliances, and other groups can work collaboratively to integrate and expand the mission of health literacy.

Literacy and health literacy are not the same, but they are related. Health literacy is not simply the ability to read; it also includes specific skills, like calculating the right dose of a medicine, following directions for fasting before a surgery, or checking a nutrition label to make sure an item is safe for someone with a food allergy. The U.S. Department of Education collects and reports data on adult literacy and numeracy skills. The study found that adults who self-report the worst health also have the most limited literacy, numeracy, and health literacy skills; disproportionate rates are found among lower-income Americans eligible for Medicaid. 

Individuals with low health literacy experience greater health care use and costs compared to those with proficient health literacy. Through all its impacts such as medical errors, increased illness and disability, loss of wages, and compromised public health, low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion every year, according to the Center for Health Care Strategies.

Other outcomes of low health literacy include the following:

  • ​Reduced knowledge and understanding of a person's own medical conditions and treatment
  • Reduced knowledge and understanding of health-promoting behaviors and preventative care and services
  • Increased rates of hospitalization and use of emergency services
  • Increased rates of poor health status
  • ​Entry of sicker patients into healthcare systems 

If you would like to learn more about navigating your health records with existing resources and tools, visit https://www.healthit.gov/how-do-i/individuals.

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