Going Beyond Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pink Ribbons

When you think of October what comes to mind? Pumpkins, corn mazes, ghosts, goblins and who can forget the much-anticipated pumpkin spice latte? Now, narrow it down and think about healthcare and the month of October. What comes to mind now? Pink ribbons, 5K’s in pink tutus, and mammograms- Breast Cancer Awareness. If you haven’t already, get out there and schedule your mammogram. Trust me, it really isn’t that bad.

Did you also know October is National Health Literacy month?

You may ask, “What is Health Literacy and why does it matter?” Healthy People 2030 defines personal health literacy as, “The degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.” In a recent study by the CDC, it was found that only 12% of people in the US scored in the top percentile.

This can have a profound impact on our health, leading to serious medication errors, more frequent emergency room visits, preventable hospitalizations, and even death.

Risks of Limited Health Literacy:

• Poorer overall health.

• Reduced ability to manage chronic diseases.

• Poorer health outcomes.

• Less likely to understand their diagnosis.

• Less likely to have screening or preventive care.

• Discovery in later stages of the disease.

• Increased likelihood to be hospitalized and re-hospitalized.

How can you improve your health literacy?

Ask questions- They say there are no dumb questions: That could not be more true when it comes to your health. Make a list of questions before your appointment. If you don’t understand the answers your doctor gives you, ask again. Don’t understand your diagnosis? Ask for an explanation. Don’t understand your medication and why it is being prescribed? Ask for an explanation. Don’t understand your follow-up instructions? Ask for an explanation. Still have questions after you leave your appointment? Call the office back and ask to speak to a nurse or if you have access to your health portal send a message to a nurse.

Take notes- Studies have shown that only 20-50% of the information discussed at a doctor’s visit is retained. Taking notes while you are in the office will help you retain important information.

Know your medications- bring a list of your medications and dosages; include over-the-counter medications and supplements. You can even bring your medication bottles themselves to your appointment. Have your doctor review your medications. You may have medications that should not be taken together or multiple medications treating the same condition. If you do not know why you are taking something, review point one above-ask for an explanation.

Know your health history- The more you know about your health history—surgeries, procedures, medications, health conditions—the better your doctor can care for you. Keep a list of serious health issues you have encountered.

Bring an advocate- Everyone should have an advocate, whether family, friend or professional. Having someone there with you that can take notes, ask questions, and follow-up on care can be a valuable resource for improving your care and health outcomes.

Healthcare can be scary, worrisome, time-consuming, and sometimes downright frustrating; even more so if you do not have medical experience. Improving your health literacy can help.

At Haven Healthcare Advocates our advocates make sure t hat you have and understand all the healthcare information you need to make the best and most informed decisions for you or a loved one’s care and then we make sure nothing falls between the cracks. You are not alone. To find out more click here or schedule a consultation .