As defined in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy1, “health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” Research has shown that limited health literacy affects our society across all demographics, but especially those in minority and lower socioeconomic groups and those over the age of sixty-five1,2. From reading the proper dosages on an over-the-counter medicine bottle or eating and exercising to promote a healthy lifestyle to deciding on life-saving surgical interventions or managing a chronic illness, health literacy impacts every life. Lacking the ability to access and comprehend health information has been shown to cause increased healthcare costs, worse patient outcomes, and overall lower quality of life3.
Today, as we shift toward more consumer-driven healthcare, it is more important than ever for healthcare professionals and organizations to commit to increasing healthcare accessibility, patient education, and the delivery of high quality, cost-effective health services.
The creation of Health Literacy First (HLF), a non-profit organization will assist in this mission by providing education and advocacy for patients, their families, healthcare professionals and the community. As encouraged by the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy1, the focus will be to partner with medical practices, health care providers, community organizations and individuals to promote health literacy and provide support for those in need. HLF will work with community organizations and educational institutions to provide general health literacy education and assist in the development and dissemination of high-quality, accessible health information. In partnering with medical practices, the organization will support its providers, and assist in the creations of patient-centered health information and communication strategies. In working with individuals, the mission is to ensure patients are able to understand and best utilize the information they have been given, encourage continued care, and provide a resource for advocacy. Together, Health Literacy First, and other organizations can work toward a community that is focused on the promotion of good health and overall better quality of life for our citizens.