October is Health Literacy Month.
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information needed to make health decisions and access the services needed to prevent or treat illness.
Low health literacy affects patient outcomes as well as health care costs. Patients with poor health literacy make more medication errors, are less able to comply with treatment, are less successful navigating the health care system, and are at increased risk for hospitalization. In addition, patients with low health literacy cost more due to poor compliance with treatment.
Good health requires that you be an active partner in your care and participate in making treatment decisions. To do this you need to understand your medical problems and understand what steps you should take to deal with them.
As a patient there are a few steps you can take to increase your health knowledge.
- When searching for health information use reliable consumer-focused websites like MedlinePlus and Healthwise. MedlinePlus is from the National Library of Medicine and provides material that is designed for patients and is easy to read and understand. Healthwise is the online consumer health information resource available through the University of Vermont Medical Center website.
- Bring another person with you to your appointments to act as another set of ears, be prepared to ask questions- make a list, and if you do not understand something be sure to speak up.
- If you need help understanding medical information speak to people who can help you; staff at your providers office, social workers, ask if your provider has a Community Health Team or contact us at the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
If you have question or can’t find the information you are looking for contact the Fymoyer Center at the University of Vermont Medical Center, we can find the information for you or refer you to the best sources. Call us at 847-8821, e-mail us at ResourceCenter@UVMHealth.org or visit us on the 3rd Level of the Main Pavilion at the Medical Center.
Alan P. Lampson, MLS, is the lead of the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at the UVM Medical Center.