Why Being Health Literate Matters

George Wu is an accomplished surgeon, informaticist, and healthcare business consultant. A leader in innovation for health information technology, George has joined Peer Health as a Clinical Advisor.

Greg McKelvey Jr. is also a physician joining Peer Health as a Clinical Advisor. As a current Fellow in medicine and informatics at the University of Washington, Greg is helping to optimize the health of populations through the power of data science.

Unless you’re a medical professional feeling confused by medical terminology is common. For a variety of different reasons, health literacy has always been a major barrier to improving health outcomes.1 Being health literate can help prevent health problems and protect your health as it affects the ability to engage in self-care and chronic disease management.  

Health literacy is defined as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.2 Better understanding the health information and services offered to you helps process the usefulness of the information and services. Let’s use clinical trials as an example.

According to a major pharmaceutical company,3 only 20% of patients receive clinical trial information from their doctors. 46% of patients received information from the internet and 22% received information from advocacy groups. The most shocking statistic is the fact that out of the patients who did not participate in a trial, 65% were not aware of the appropriate trials.

Participating in a clinical trial allows for chronic illness sufferers to play a more active role in their healthcare. But, health literacy and a lack of medical terminology understanding is an obstacle for clinical trial recruitment.

There are many avenues to increase clinical trial awareness and participation. Pharmaceutical companies have done a phenomenal job in promoting education but more diverse engagement from the community is needed to broaden the scope. Peer to peer education and mentoring has improved health outcomes and literacy in several disease states.

One example is the Promotores de Salud (Community Health Workers) program from the CDC.4 The cornerstone of this peer-led program is patient education, health literacy, and a deeper understanding of individual disease states.  Having the ability to connect with peer advocacy groups who have similar medical or psychological conditions is a critical first step.

Find healthcare peers just like you with Peer Health. Join us.

1Berkman ND et al. Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 19;155(2):97-107.
2 http://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/learn/
3 https://lillypad.lilly.com/entry.php?e=7073#more-8812
4 http://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/promotores/

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