Many Don't Have Good 'health Literacy'

COLUMBIA, Mo., Sept. 18 (UPI) — Almost half of U.S. adults don’t understand health information such as dosage and timing of prescription medicine, researchers find.

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions in Columbia, Mo., say confusing medical directions and failure to understand prescription directions can lead to serious consequences, including health setbacks, inappropriate hospital admissions and even death.


Diane Smith and four occupational therapy graduate students conducted a pilot study focusing on the “health literacy environment” of two healthcare facilities — a rehabilitation facility and an independent senior-living facility.

“Health literacy,” defined for the study, is a patient’s ability to understand health information provided to by health professionals. At the independent living facility, paperwork was written at a college-sophomore reading level but the researchers recommend medical information be written at a fifth- to eighth-grade reading level in a larger font.

At the rehabilitation facility, healthcare professionals rarely asked patients if instructions were clear, and oral communication problems worsen if other languages are used and no translator is available.

The researchers suggest healthcare professionals should use plain language, not professional jargon and ensure a patient understands directions.

The findings are published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Health Care.

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