FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2011
(CHICAGO) – For many older adults, being diagnosed with a chronic disease might be the first time they are facing a major health issue. Even the most proficient readers might be confused by instructions on prescription labels or where to find information about their illness. To ensure the safety of older patients, members of the American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) House of Delegates voted today to encourage all physicians and medical facilities to promote health literacy.
What Is Health Literacy?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service defines health literacy as “the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
What Role Does Health Literacy Play in Being Healthy?
Beyond reading, health literacy is a person’s ability to find and analyze information, such as dietary tips found on a pamphlet, in order to take action to improve their health.
Health literacy affects all aspects of a person’s health care. Patients need to understand the instructions on a prescription label to make sure they take their medication correctly. Comprehending nutrition labels on food helps people ensure they are eating a healthy diet.
Low health literacy could lead to higher rates of hospitalization and higher use of costly emergency services.
“When patients are unsure of their directions for taking medications, instructions from physicians or information about their conditions, the effectiveness of the entire treatment plan is compromised,” says Robert S. Juhasz, DO, an AOA board-certified internist who serves as medical director at the Cleveland Clinic’s Willoughby Hills Family Health Center. “In older patients, who are often on more than one type of medication and dealing with multiple illnesses, the problem can be quickly compounded making the need to improve health literacy among this population even more critical.”
About the House of Delegates
The AOA’s House of Delegates, comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country, meets annually in July to set organizational policies and elect new officers.
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.
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