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Health Policy Formulation and Analysis
It is sufficient to appreciate that healthcare providers like nurses, clinicians, physicians, as well as pharmacists encounter situations where low literacy levels translate to obstacles in optimized care outcomes. This call for policy towards desirable health literacy levels and its analysis upon implementation focused on appraising patient abilities to acquire, process, and comprehend general information on health and services necessary to reach good healthcare related decisions.
Research undertaken by Rasu et al. (2015) provides that only 12% of adults in the U.S have an appropriate level of health literacy while 53% and 22% bear intermediate and fundamental degrees of health literacy respectively. The remaining 14% of Americans report low health literacy (LHL) levels. This implies that among persons with LHL, 50% of healthcare costs arise from undermined literacy effects translating into an extra 237 billion dollars in health related costs (Rasu et al., 2015). This underscores the need to formulate health policy targeting improvements in health literacy levels via appropriate strategies.
Evidence of the Problem
Numerous research studies on the healthcare issue indicate the seriousness of LHL in undermining the overall healthcare outcomes of a significant portion of American populace. According to Rasu et al. (2015), it not only results in poor healthcare utilization and runaway costs but also leads to especially poor health statuses among the elderly. National institutions and organizations have responded in a positive manner by taking the stand to prioritize health literacy as a major agenda towards improving safety and quality of care outcomes across all demographic groups in the U.S.
Alternative Solutions to the Issue
It appears that there are other ways with which healthcare literacy across the country can be appraised. For instance, it is possible to incorporate health literacy and clear communication into all public health spheres such as funding, planning, research, evaluation, and policy development (CDC 2014). The objective of this alternative solution is to commit more of existing resources towards addressing and prioritizing limited health literacy in the U.S. The second alternative solution appertains to incorporating the fresh objectives into already existing policy (CDC 2014). This can include integrating standard-based, accurate, and developmentally applicable information of health and science into existing education curricula from kindergarten to university. The third alternative involves engaging the government towards formulating novel federal policy.
Formulating and implementing new policy demands enabling legal instruments to support implementation. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as the Plain Writing Act of 2010 are two significant legislation serving as key indicators on the brevity of the LHL problem (Rasu et al., 2015). LHL translates to increased hospitalizations, low uptake of preventative services like influenza vaccinations, inability to take recommended dosage as well as misinterpretation of health information and medication labels. The government has various institutional frameworks that can ensure quick implementation of the policy. For instance, health institutions privy to the ACA can categorically identify persons with LHL and thus collaborative engage other stakeholders to improve health literacy levels in select demographic groups.
Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy with three clear goals at heart. The first goal involved the development and dissemination of health and safety literature material that is not only accessible but also accurate and actionable. The core idea is to ensure that information related to a person’s health and safety is void of complex, technical, or vague directives that make actualizing recommendations overly difficult for many Americans. This is necessary towards addressing gaps and championing the development of novel tools for education and health professionals to capitalize on.
Trade-Offs of not having a Policy
The introduction of legislation like the ACA worked to ensure that as many Americans as possible gained access to quality healthcare delivery. The investments made by all stakeholders towards achieving the objective are enormous. Unfortunately, the unacceptable numbers of LHL among many citizens is sure to derail efforts to attaining desirable healthcare statuses in the US. Rikard et al. (2016) concur that health literacy is a critical determinant of the health inequalities notable amongst different demographic group occurring within the U.S. population. In essence, it is continuing to stand out as more of an asset rather than a clinical risk.
Professionals in the healthcare industry exhibit high literacy levels and public health services exhibit good penetration rates into nearly all areas in the U.S. According to Hernandez and Hewitt (2014), this has allowed for state, local, as well as national public health officials to appreciate the urgency with which health literacy shortcomings need to be addressed. For instance, collaborations with researchers continue to offer a sufficient avenue through which high risk/ vulnerable populations as well as communities can improve literacy outcomes. Researchers often encounter targeted groups which allow them to develop communication protocols that address LHL. Sharing of such information has allowed for desirable results to be achieved relative to health literacy policy adoption.
The Intended Use of Policy and Its Effect on Patient Care
Medical terms and procedures are confusing to even persons with intermediary health literacy levels. Enhancing health literacy levels at an early age implies that the policy is well suited for application in the context of education sector budgets. Relative to the ACA, research studies indicate that lower healthcare costs are attainable through increased health literacy levels among beneficiaries (Hernandez & Hewitt, 2014). This implies that relevant stakeholders such as the healthcare industry and financial services firms like insurance cover providers stand to gain from desirable literacy outcomes. Rather than considering extra costs associated with improving health literacy across the US population, it is sufficient to consider the increased budgetary allocations to the agenda as a long term investment. The resultant savings are bound to offer motivation for stakeholders like state, federal, and local governments to commit reasonable investments towards improving overall health literacy in the country.
The mainstay of the policy is to require healthcare systems to move into communities and reach out to individual patients towards understanding wants and needs. For instance, the ACA has facilitated avenues through which higher numbers of Americans desiring services offered by healthcare providers (Hernandez & Hewitt, 2014). The implementation of action plans and initiatives in line with policy to improve US health literacy levels is thus dependent on how care providers seek to improve engagements with patients. There is the opportunity to collect data from previously secluded community groups towards devising means for better information dissemination towards attaining intended care outcomes.
Policy to enhance literacy levels within America promises to institutionalize and ingrain novel social norms that encourage people to relate environmental settings, social resources, and a multi-sectorial approach to attaining set objectives. Upon evaluation, the costs associated with LHL are quite high yet with little increases in budgetary allocation to the education sector as well as commitments from health insurance as well as healthcare providers, its objectives are attainable. Leveraging technology promises to empower uses of healthcare services to interactively relate with healthcare providers towards attaining sustainable quality of care as well as patient safety outcomes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). CDC’s Health Literacy Action Plan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on 6 April, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/planact/cdcplan.html
Hernandez, L. M., & Hewitt, M. (Eds.). (2014). Implications of health literacy for public health: Workshop summary. National Academies Press.
Rasu, R. S., Bawa, W. A., Suminski, R., Snella, K., & Warady, B. (2015). Health literacy impact on national healthcare utilization and expenditure. International journal of health policy and management, 4(11), 747.
Rikard, R. V., Thompson, M. S., McKinney, J., & Beauchamp, A. (2016). Examining health literacy disparities in the United States: a third look at the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). BMC public health, 16(1), 975.