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Understanding healthcare in October

October 1-31

What: The Affordable Healthcare Act signed into law earlier this year aims to make treatment more accessible for all Americans. But an overlooked and vital aspect of good health is health literacy, which ranges from discussing symptoms and treatments to reading prescriptions and filling out forms. The American Medical Association reports that a high level of health literacy can have a greater effect on a person’s well-being than age, income and other factors. Throughout October, Health Literacy Month encourages patients to take charge and gain a better understanding of treatment.

Background: Created in 1999 by health educator Helen Osborne, Health Literacy Month aims to increase the everyday person’s medical literacy and demonstrate how important this knowledge is to good health.

Story Pitch: Medical professionals will have a great chance this month to reach out to communities and empower people to understand their health. Hospitals and clinics can take this opportunity to establish a community presence by offering health literacy workshops and presentations targeted at the needs of specific groups. Pharmaceutical and medical supply companies will want to raise health literacy about their specific products, including how treatments work and how to discuss them with a medical professional.

Story Hook: According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 12 percent of English speaking adults in the U.S. are proficiently health literate. How can not understanding medical terminology negatively impact a patient receiving treatment? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:

  • What are commonly misunderstood medical terms and treatments?
  • What are some barriers people face to better health literacy?
  • What are good (and not so good) sources for understanding medical terms and treatments?
  • What are some common medical errors? What errors do patients make in understanding and treating these issues?

Tips: Provide contact information for a health educator or medical professional who can talk about common problems people have with health literacy as well as its importance. In addition, find a person whose health literacy helps him better manage his health conditions.

American Medical Association
(312) 464-4430

Health Literacy Month
(508) 653-1199

Society for Public Health Education
(202) 408-9804

United States Department of Health and Human Services
(877) 696-6775

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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