Ever Had Trouble Understanding Your Doctor, Health Forms, or Pill Bottles? You're Not Alone

Apr 03, 2001, 01:00 ET from AKI

    ATLANTA, April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- If you are unclear about what a doctor is
 telling you about your health or your elderly parent's health, you are not
 alone. Millions of Americans are affected by low health literacy -- have
 difficulty understanding and acting on their health care information.
     "Many people are at great risk for unnecessary trips to the emergency
 room, medication errors, and other serious medical complications," says Ruth
 Parker, M.D., Emory University, Associate Professor of Medicine, citing an
 American Medical Association statistic which estimates that about 90 million
 Americans are affected by poor health literacy today.
     In an exceedingly complicated health care system, there is not one answer
 for low health literacy. However, patients and their families can try to
 prevent adverse outcomes from low health literacy by becoming more informed.
 Health literacy experts suggest the following tips may help some patients:
 
     *  If you have trouble understanding what your doctor says, consider
        taking a family member or friend with you to listen to instructions
        about your health.
     *  When you are given instructions for self-care of medical problems,
        review them with the doctor to make sure you correctly understand
        what you need to know to take care of yourself.
     *  Ask your doctor to explain information to you in language you
        understand.
     *  Take along all your medications to each doctor visit so he/she can
        review them with you every visit.
     *  Do not be afraid to ask for help. Health care professionals are here to
        help you. You are not alone. Many patients have problems with health
        literacy.
 
     Dr. Parker offers examples of problems stemming from poor health literacy.
 
     *  A mother puts medicine for an ear infection into her daughter's ear,
        instead of her mouth, because she could not read and understand the
        medication label.
     *  A 55-year-old man, who gives his insulin to an orange because that is
        what the health educator taught him during his diabetes education
        class.
     *  A patient who, during counseling for colon cancer screening, tells his
        doctor that he does not have blood in his stool, because there is no
        blood in his "chairs" at home.
 
     "Sad, but true, these examples illustrate how dangerous low health
 literacy can be," Dr. Parker says.
     Low health literacy affects people of all social classes, yet the elderly,
 chronically ill, and economically disadvantaged are particularly vulnerable.
 Health literacy media contact: Aileen Kantor, 301-229-6782, or
 wildcat427@aol.com .
 
 

SOURCE AKI
    ATLANTA, April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- If you are unclear about what a doctor is
 telling you about your health or your elderly parent's health, you are not
 alone. Millions of Americans are affected by low health literacy -- have
 difficulty understanding and acting on their health care information.
     "Many people are at great risk for unnecessary trips to the emergency
 room, medication errors, and other serious medical complications," says Ruth
 Parker, M.D., Emory University, Associate Professor of Medicine, citing an
 American Medical Association statistic which estimates that about 90 million
 Americans are affected by poor health literacy today.
     In an exceedingly complicated health care system, there is not one answer
 for low health literacy. However, patients and their families can try to
 prevent adverse outcomes from low health literacy by becoming more informed.
 Health literacy experts suggest the following tips may help some patients:
 
     *  If you have trouble understanding what your doctor says, consider
        taking a family member or friend with you to listen to instructions
        about your health.
     *  When you are given instructions for self-care of medical problems,
        review them with the doctor to make sure you correctly understand
        what you need to know to take care of yourself.
     *  Ask your doctor to explain information to you in language you
        understand.
     *  Take along all your medications to each doctor visit so he/she can
        review them with you every visit.
     *  Do not be afraid to ask for help. Health care professionals are here to
        help you. You are not alone. Many patients have problems with health
        literacy.
 
     Dr. Parker offers examples of problems stemming from poor health literacy.
 
     *  A mother puts medicine for an ear infection into her daughter's ear,
        instead of her mouth, because she could not read and understand the
        medication label.
     *  A 55-year-old man, who gives his insulin to an orange because that is
        what the health educator taught him during his diabetes education
        class.
     *  A patient who, during counseling for colon cancer screening, tells his
        doctor that he does not have blood in his stool, because there is no
        blood in his "chairs" at home.
 
     "Sad, but true, these examples illustrate how dangerous low health
 literacy can be," Dr. Parker says.
     Low health literacy affects people of all social classes, yet the elderly,
 chronically ill, and economically disadvantaged are particularly vulnerable.
 Health literacy media contact: Aileen Kantor, 301-229-6782, or
 wildcat427@aol.com .
 
 SOURCE  AKI