Health literacy means the ability to understand health–related information – not
just the ability to read printed material just the ability to read printed material.
Health literacy is defined by Healthy People 2010 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.” Patients need to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctor’s directions and consent forms. They also need to be able to navigate through the health care system, which can be very complex.
According to American Medical Association, poor health literacy is “a stronger
predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education
level, and race.” There is a high correlation between the ability to read
and health literacy, but it is important to recognize that patients who are fully
literate may be health illiterate.
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that patients of all literacy
levels, not just those who have a low literacy level, have trouble comprehending
instructions on how to take their medications. The most frequent effects of patient confusion are dosage errors, followed by dose frequency errors.
People with low literacy are much more likely to misunderstand medication information, and comprehension is even lower when patients take multiple medications. Even basic information such as knowing the name of their blood pressure medication poses a challenge for up to 60% of people with low literacy. The end result of this patient confusion may be medication errors and an increase in ER and hospital visits.
If we relate it in our country, Filipino people tend to forget that every information in the label is important. They just rely on information on what they see on the television, radio and other other information ads. We should also recognizes the critical link between functional literacy and health status. The relationship between literacy and health is complex. Literacy impacts health knowledge, health status, and access to health services. Health status is influenced by several related socioeconomic factors. Literacy impacts income level, occupation, education, housing, and access to medical care. The poor and illiterate are more likely to work under hazardous conditions or be exposed to environmental toxins
Reasons for limited literacy in the Philippines:
1. Lack of educational opportunity
2. Learning abilities and disabilities
3. Older adults declines cognitive functions
4. Reading abilities
But what can the Philippine government do? Some government agencies are conducting seminars to help our illiterate people in understanding the importance of literacy. I think the government should conduct and disseminate more information about literacy in the Philippines. The more people are health literate the better chance of reducing the health problem, medical errors and health visits.
Pinoy pharmacist what can you do to help our kababayans?