October is Health Literacy Awareness month. Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
According to the American Medical Association, poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level and race. People with poor literacy are also more likely to have chronic diseases and less likely to get the healthcare they need.
It is so important that we as providers put great emphasis on the educational component of treatment. For example, at our clinic, we always spend time after each swallow study playing back the video and explaining the findings to the patient, providing them with educational handouts explaining the anatomy, their symptoms, and our recommendations. It is recommended that all patient handouts are at the 5th grade reading level.
A goal of mine has also always been to make down-to-earth patient education handouts easily available to other practicing clinicians in our field as well, which I’ve been able to do through my ebook downloads. Our clinic also presents at and hosts support groups, offers free public screenings at events, produces informational videos, etc. in an attempt to increase public awareness pertaining to our small niche of healthcare through various avenues.
Discussion points: What do you do in your practice to increase awareness and understanding of our services? How can we as a field continue to improve in this area?