"Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."
How to Improve Health Literacy
You might not know it, but October is National Health Literacy Month! What is health literacy? According to the National Institutes of Health, "Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."
In other words, being health literate means having the skills to read, understand, and use health information in order to make good decisions about your health. It's important to be health literate because, as the NIH points out, "Health literacy plays a critical role in determining a person’s ability to navigate the complex U.S. healthcare system."
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to improve your health literacy! Keep reading to find out how.
3 Ways to Improve Your Health Literacy
1. Read, read, read! Start with easy-to-read materials like newspapers or magazines, then move on to more challenging sources like books or articles. As you become more comfortable with different types of reading material, you'll also become more comfortable understanding and using health information.
2. Talk to your healthcare provider. If you don't understand something your doctor or nurse said, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. They're there to help you, after all! You can also ask your pharmacist questions about your medications—they're a great resource for information about side effects, drug interactions, and more.
3. Use reliable sources of information. When you're looking for health information online, stick to websites from credible organizations like government agencies (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or well-respected nonprofits (like the American Heart Association). These sites can provide you with accurate, up-to-date information that you can trust.
Improving your health literacy is a great way to empower yourself and take control of your health. By reading more and seeking out reliable sources of information, you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your health. And don't forget—if you ever have any questions, your healthcare providers are always there to help!