Thursday, December 13, 2007

Health Literacy

The National Health Service in the UK offers health information in many languages, including Punjabi. Their resource site, NHS Direct, has lots of info from Alcohol Abuse, to B12 deficiency, to Exercise tips. One of the most important ways to improve health care is to provide information to patients that they can actually understand. It's about empowering patients and encouraging them to be involved with their care. I just want to post the link:

Health Information in Punjabi

I will say, however, that it's important to provide health information to a patient (whether the patient is English-speaking or not) that is understandable. For example, I was reading through the Punjabi information on the NHS site about high blood pressure. The document used words such as Hypertension, Systolic, and Diastolic. These words are often misinterpreted by patients who speak English, never mind those who speak a different language. The Institute of Medicine says,
Nearly half of all American adults--90 million people--have difficulty understanding and using health information, and there is a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services among patients with limited health literacy.
So health literacy is a huge issue that impacts quality of care and it's really beginning to get more attention. I just think it's important to remember that when developing health information, to use terms that will be understandable by the average patient. Whatever language they may speak.

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