Thursday, February 11, 2016

Health Literacy

We can do better!

Health literacy is a big problem in North America.  Even those who have a high literacy standing can have poor health literacy, a lack of understanding of health related understanding.  This can be part of the answer to Michael Shermer's query:  “Why do smart people believe weird things?”

Many people have incorrect assumptions about a multitude of health related topics.  Because of their lack of health literacy, they can often fall prey to the onslaught of misleading and scam memes that get passed around on social media.  They may not be able to tell what's accurate or not, what's real and what is bogus.

As you can see in the attached screencap, 88% of English-speaking adults are not proficient in health understanding.  In fact a majority of the people that are on Medicaid in the USA barely have a reading level above 5th grade.   This is a problem as even basic level health information (pamphlets, print ads, commercial, communications with doctors) is often at grade 10 level or higher.

To help increase the health literacy of North America, we must learn to pass on important information in a simpler way.  This could mean sharing information in a simpler format (the meme is a good example), in simple language.

Ok, maybe not that simple, but something that explains a little bit more.

If we can better educate those who often feel confused (and in turn that confusion can learn to distrust), we will help slow down the effectiveness of predatory quacks who play right into that lack of knowledge and understanding.  Some people though will still hold onto a belief regardless (cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias), taking the time to try may help them eventually, or at least help those who are viewing the exchange.  The battle isn't always for the one right in front of you.

So be patient.  Teach relative to the person's health literacy (and actual literacy).  Hopefully we can create a much healthier and better world.

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