October is Health Literacy Month, a month dedicated to promoting the importance of understandable health information. The month was first honored as an annual worldwide event in 1999 and continues to be an important initiative in addressing inequities in literacy and health. Healthy People 2020 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." Health literacy can depend on several different factors, such as communication skills of patients and professionals, knowledge of health topics, cultural difference, general reading literacy, and demands of an individual's living situation. Health literacy, or lack thereof, can affect a person's ability to engage in self-care and management of chronic diseases, to share personal information, such as health history with providers, and to make informed decisions about their health. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, "low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services."
This year's theme for Health Literacy Month is "Be a Health Literacy Hero". This encourages taking action to improve health communication between patients and providers and raising awareness about health literacy to address health disparities. Anyone can be a health literacy hero – an individual, a group of people, or an organization. You can also learn more about several health topics by checking out MedlinePlus, a resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine that provides reliable health information.
Additionally, the Free Library of Philadelphia will be celebrating Health Literacy Month by introducing several health programs at Parkway Central Library including, but not limited to: weekly blood pressure and BMI (Body Mass Index) screenings, Ask-a-Nurse sessions, HIV testing, CPR Training, Hepatitis B screening, and a breast cancer awareness day. Be on the lookout for more details about the time and location of these events!
Learn how to be a health literacy hero by exploring the links above or in our Health Literacy Explore Topic.
Health can and should be in your hands. We can work together to take hold of our health once again.