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Tips to Improving your Health Literacy

Health literacy means having the ability to clearly understand health information. Personal health literacy is your ability to find, understand, and use health information to make the best possible decisions for yourself or someone else if you are a caregiver. It involves reading, writing, math, language, and comprehension skills applied to health knowledge, such as how the body works and healthy behaviors.

Good health literacy skills are necessary to:

  • Find the health information and services you need
  • Communicate effectively with providers and other healthcare professionals.
  • Understand and decide which providers, services, and treatment plans best fit your needs
    Make treatment decisions, having analyzed their benefits and risks.
  • Follow your treatment plan

A few tips to better health literacy so you can advocate for yourself:

1. Have a plan for every provider visit. Prioritize what you want to talk and learn about, says Dr. Hamaoui. “Visit times can be limited, so coming in with an agenda will maximize your time.” Take notes to review later and follow up if needed.

2. Ask questions if anything is unclear. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your provider to explain something you don’t understand. Repeat back what you hear to prevent any misunderstanding. “Our job is to provide information in a digestible way so you can make informed decisions,” says Dr. Hamaoui.

3. Request information in plain language. Ask for materials such as handouts, photos, diagrams, or videos. Dr. Patel offers to review handouts with patients and elaborate on specific points to help increase their understanding.

4. Bring a friend or family member to your visit, if possible. This person can take notes so you can concentrate on simply listening. If you’re attending a virtual visit, ask if they can join the call.

For more tips and information go to this article from From Summit Health'