Health literacy is the extent at which people have the capability of obtaining, processing and understanding the necessary health information and services, which is essential in making appropriate health decisions (Healthy People 2010). Moreover, limited health literacy among individuals have numerous adverse health effects to them such as limited use of screening programs and reduced rates of medication compliances. This paper pays high attention to the analysis of the roles that health literacy plays in bringing health care disparities and a discussion of its effects on patient outcomes.
Health literacy plays numerous roles in bridging health care disparities. For example, it facilitates in reducing communication barrier between clinicians and patients. Limited health literacy hinders individuals from contemplating medication instructions, making informed consents, appointment reminder forms among others. However, health physicians should encourage open and clear communication with patients in order to help in bridging health care disparities. Consecutively, health literacy helps individuals to reduce health care costs disparities through sensitizing them to seek preventive programs. These programs help individuals from unnecessary hospitalization, which are highly costly (Institute for Healthcare Advancement 2013).
Health literacy helps individuals to understand the necessity of various preventive services such as Pap smear, flu shots, mammograms, and other immunization programs (American College of Physicians 2014). Adopting these preventive programs help in reducing hospitalization of most individuals, and early detection of disease conditions. In addition, health literacy enables patients to ask health professionals the necessary questions or clarifications about how to take the prescribed medications. For example, health literacy helps married women to take family planning pills at the right time and the right quantity (Suzanne & John 67-69). Consecutively, health literacy reduces shame and stigma to the patients, since they would not be forced to hide their vocabulary and reading difficulties.
It is, therefore, evident that health literacy has the role of bridging health care gaps such as healthcare costs and communication barriers. Moreover, health literacy contributes to positive health outcomes of patients such as through the adoption of preventive services, reducing stigma and shame, reduced rates of hospitalization among others
Suzanne Graham & John Brookey, Do Patients Understand?, Perm J. 2008 Summer; 12(3): 67–69, online Summer Publication, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037129/
Institute for Healthcare Advancement, A Patient’s Perspective on the Health Literacy Myth, Conference Recaps, 2013. Retrieved from, http://www.iha4health.org/2013-conference-recaps/friday-may-10th-2013/a-patients-perspective-on-the-health-literacy-myth/
American College of Physicians, Multimedia from ACP: ACP education-on-demand, 190 North Independence Mall West, Piladephia, 2014. Retrieved from, http://www.acponline.org/multimedia/?bclid=782539368001&bctid=790962260001
Healthy People 2010, Healthy Literacy, NLM Complete Bibliographies of Medicine, 2000.