In their recent report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, the Institute of Medicine defines Health Literacy as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." Many factors affect how easily health information is understood and followed, including an individual's reading level, language, education level, cultural background and the format and style of the information.
The theme for Health Literacy Month 2014 is “Be a Health Literacy Hero” and focuses on finding ways to improve health communication and taking action, as well as promoting the importance of understandable health information. Health literacy is a global cause - because everyone, regardless of education or socioeconomic status -- can experience challenges in processing medical information, especially when undergoing the stress of dealing with a serious illness.
The International Association of Patient Organisations (IAPO) has guidelines to improve the quality and accessibility of health information for patients which could be helpful to consider as you develop educational resources for your membership. If you are interested to learn more on this topic, the book Decoding Medical Gobbleddygook - Health Literacy Puts Patients First, has a lot of resources on improving health literacy and is available free online.
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