“Health literacy is a shared responsibility between patients (or anyone of the receiving end of health communication) and providers (or anyone on the giving end, including agencies that provide health information). Each must communicate in ways that the other can understand.

Why is health literacy a problem? Studies consistently show that a significant number of people have problems reading, understanding, and acting on health information, and there are a number of reasons why. For one thing, health information is inherently complex, and health providers are not necessarily skilled communicators. Additionally, patients bring a wide range of learning needs to the healthcare experience. Basic literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context, and emotional responses can all affect the way people receive and process information — and the way people process information, in turn, has a direct impact on health outcomes and cost.

The medical world uses words that are very specific, usually with a Latin base, but never are used in the general public. We use these words because we know what they mean and there are not any “regular” words that mean exactly what the medical words mean. Some people feel that they will look ignorant if they ask questions, but the most important thing is that the patient fully understands the medication, treatment or procedure. Questions are good! And the best patient is one that understands want is going on so that they can get or stay healthy.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking the doctor, ask the nurse, pharmacist or therapist. That is one thing all auxiliary medical people are great at, translating “medical” into English. Remember that when it comes to health care the most important person is you. You have the right to completely understand what is happening to your body.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact Judi M, Parish Nurse at 295-4991. It would be my privilege to help in any way I can.

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