Health Literacy Matters: Health Literacy Month Events Improve Communication for Health Professionals and the Public

Governor Nathan Deal has declared October to be Health Literacy Month in Georgia. Health literacy helps patients and consumers understand information about their health, so they can make the best possible choices regarding prevention and treatment. During Health Literacy Month, The Georgia Alliance for Health Literacy (GAHL) offers presentations and workshops on health literacy for health care professionals and the community. These events include workshops in Athens and Suwanee on better patient communication for health professionals. Other activities include a public forum on clear end-of-life instructions, and release of the first state-wide survey on health literacy in Georgia.

According to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly nine out of 10 adults have difficulty using routine health information. When individuals cannot understand how to manage their health, they often skip necessary medical tests or vaccinations, fail to control their chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, and make dangerous errors in taking their medications. Low health literacy often results in expensive emergency room visits. “Low health literacy results in huge personal and financial costs,” according to Don Rubin, Chair of the Georgia Alliance for Health Literacy. “By improving health literacy we can reduce suffering due to disease, reduce health care expenditures, and even reduce days missed at work because of illness. Health literacy offers a terrific return on investment for Georgia.”

Heath literacy can also help improve health equity or fairness across social groups. For example, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, black men are almost one-third more likely to die of cancer than white men, due, in part, to a failure to communicate effectively about the need for cancer screening. “Health literacy is an important tool for reducing health disparities and assuring better health and treatment outcomes for Georgians from every racial and ethnic group and geographic locale,” said Oluwatoyosi Adekeye, MD, DrPH, Morehouse School of Medicine, and this year’s Health Literacy Month leader for the Georgia Alliance for Health Literacy.

Health Literacy Month events in Georgia include:

  • Health Literacy and End-of-Life Planning: Screening and discussion of PBS documentary, Being Mortal – Oct. 8
  • Heath Literacy and Health Professions Education: Workshop at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (Suwanee) – Oct. 18
  • Health Literate Hospitals and Clinics: Presentation for the Athens Regional Medical Center Leadership Group – Oct. 18
  • Health Literacy and Georgia’s Health Report Card: Panel presentation at the State of Public Health Conference, UGA – Oct. 18
  • Health Literacy Awareness and Skill for Healthcare Providers: Workshop at the Athens Regional Medical Center – Oct. 19

Health Literacy Matters is the theme for Health Literacy Month 2016 in Georgia, to help support individuals and organizations in better understanding health information based on their unique perspectives. These perspectives can include those of patients, consumers, parents, educators, providers, business leaders, government officials, and many others. How we receive, process, and use information changes because of our roles, responsibilities, state of being, and perspectives. Health literacy affects every individual. The ability to obtain, understand, and use health information to make sound health decisions does not discriminate. “No individual is exempt from barriers to understanding health, especially when it is our own and that of loved ones,” observed Kara Tarantino, Vice President Marketing and Strategy for Strategic Health Services, and a member of the Georgia Alliance for Health Literacy Board of Directors. “To support everyone in their efforts at better health understanding, it is our pleasure to recognize that Health Literacy ‘truly’ Matters indeed.”

Georgia Alliance for Health Literacy (GAHL) is a nonprofit, volunteer and membership-based organization representing educators, researchers, government officials, healthcare providers, healthcare payers, patients and consumers. GAHL members raise awareness about health literacy skills, offer health literacy resources, and foster better communication for a healthy Georgia and a robust health care industry. Email [email protected] for more information and to get involved.