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Health Literacy for Healthy Living

Have you ever heard the term health literacy and wondered what this term means and how health literacy might affect you? Health literacy is an important tool for patients making their own healthcare decisions. Being health literate can help empower you to take control of your own health.

What is health literacy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines health literacy as, “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”

Why is Health Literacy Important?

Being health literate is important because it allows you to understand your personal health, the healthcare that you are receiving, and to make lifestyle choices that will optimize your health. Being health literate can help you react appropriately to an illness before it progresses into a debilitating chronic disease.

Health Literacy in Action

One of the simplest ways to increase your health literacy is to take an active role in your healthcare visits. Be an engaged patient and you will have more successful interactions with your healthcare providers.

How do you become an engaged patient and improve your health literacy? Ask questions! Do not be afraid to ask your healthcare provider questions about your health or the treatments and medications that you are being prescribed. Below are some tips for asking questions during your healthcare visits:

  • Write down questions before your medical appointment.
  • Ask for clarity. Repeat what you heard and ask if you understand correctly.
  • Bring a friend or family member. Having an extra person at your appointments can help you to remember what you need to ask and what your provider has said to you.
  • Ask What, Why, and How questions:
    • What disease or health condition do you have and what are your options?
    • Why is your provider prescribing or recommending certain medication and/or treatments?
    • How often do you take medications, engage in suggested activities, and how do you spell the names of your medications?