Nothing is more important during a pandemic than ensuring that the public consistently receives accurate information that they can understand. But even government websites designed with the intent to reach people with low literacy levels appear to be falling short of their guidelines for accessible text, according to an August research letter in JAMA Network Open. Continue reading
A pinned tweet touting the latest superfood. A Facebook post on vaccines. Advice from a neighbor or friend. A poster or billboard. Google.
Health information is blasting out to the public in ways it has not before. And if you think it’s hard for health journalists to make sense of the maze of conflicting data or complex studies, imagine how difficult it can be for the public to understand health and make sound choices.
Yet another study tells us how little the public knows about the Affordable Care Act, and how even the people most likely to benefit from it are often unaware. The study, from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Urban Institute, found that fewer than four in 10 uninsured adults thought they would get insurance this year. Most don’t realize they may be eligible for subsidies or expanded Medicaid.
We all know that the Affordable Care Act is complicated, and the intense political fighting about it has added to the confusion and the challenges of getting simple apolitical messages across.
But is it all about politics and messaging? How much of a role does “health literacy” – or more specifically “health insurance literacy” play? Continue reading
Health journalists understand some of the key elements audiences need to better understand health stories, but they also misunderstand the impact statistical information has on audience comprehension, according to a University of Missouri researcher.
Speaking at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference, assistant professor Amanda Hinnant, Ph.D., said the results of a survey she and colleagues conducted showed that health journalists realize audiences will be more likely to understand health stories that include a human element, use graphics to illustrate important information and employ a conversational tone.
Kim Walsh-Childers, Ph.D., of the University of Florida writes about the panel – includes a link to Hinnant’s presenation.
Pauline Chen, M.D., wrote in The New York Times about “health literacy,” arguing that both patients and doctors share the responsibility of ensuring that patients truly understand their conditions and the behavior expected to them.
Chen tells the story of one patient, a former professional athlete suffering from diabetes and other chronic ailments, who died after he was discharged from the hospital because he did not take proper care of himself.
Dr. Rebecca L. Sudore, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, was lead author on a “landmark study that linked limited health literacy to higher mortality rates.”
Dr. Sudore went on to suggest ways in which doctors and patients might address health literacy. “One thing we tell clinicians to do is to ’teach back’ or ’teach to goal.’ A clinician might say, ’I’ve just said a lot of things and I want to make sure I’ve explained things clearly to you. Can you explain things back to me, so I know you understand?’ This discussion creates a kind of a shared understanding. The doctor may not have the time, but these questions can bring up red flags that can be discussed during a follow-up appointment.”
For patients, Dr. Sudore recommended taking the initiative to tell the doctor how much is understood. “You should go back to the doctor and say, ’What I hear you saying is this. Did I get that right?’ Or, ’I’m leaving the hospital. You just gave me this new drug, but I’m still supposed to take all my other medications. Is that right?’ ”