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Wednesday, December 26, 2007 9:00 AM

Radiocast: Health Literacy

Rand: This is Healthcare 411. Confused by your health information? You’re not alone. More next.


[Begin PSA: Questions are the Answer]

Narrator: Medical mistakes claim tens of thousands of lives every year. The health care community is working on it, but you can help. When you communicate with your doctor, when you ask more questions, you reduce your risk of suffering a medical mistake. Doctors can’t answer if you don’t ask. Help reduce your risk. Questions are the answer. Learn the 10 questions you must ask. Visit www.ahrq.gov. This message brought to you by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Ad Council.

[End PSA]


Rand: Nearly half of all American adults have some difficulty understanding and using health information. AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy explains health literacy is a real issue that relates to more than reading ability.

Dr. Clancy: Health literacy is how well people understand and can evaluate information about their health and about health care options to make good decisions. Good communication is an essential part of health literacy.

Randy: What are the risks with not understanding health information?

Dr. Clancy: Limited health literacy can literally harm a person’s health. We have found that adults with lower-than-average reading skills and limited understanding of English are less likely than other Americans to get potentially life-saving screening tests such as mammograms and Pap smears, to get flu and pneumonia vaccines, and to take their children for well-child care visits.

Rand: What can patients do to boost their health literacy?

Dr. Clancy: Ask questions! Then, make sure you get and understand the answers you need so that you fully understand your health information. In some cases, it might be helpful to have another adult with you, especially if there’s a language barrier. Overall, you want to promote good healthy communication with your doctor. This will go a long way to promoting your health literacy and, ultimately, your health.

Rand: Learn more at www.healthcare411.ahrq.gov. I’m Rand Gardner. Healthcare 411 is produced by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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