Uncovering a real health threat

Picture of man at doctor's office for healthcare information article

Not being able to understand healthcare information affects more people in the U.S. than diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS, and breast cancer combined.

Imagine needing health care in another country where they speak a language you don’t understand. How would you know if there was a problem? Could you follow the doctor’s instructions? In fact, this may not be so different from what you experience when you visit your doctor now. If you have ever been confused about or don’t understand your doctor’s directions, you’re not alone.

The issue is called “health literacy,” and it refers to your ability to read, understand, and act on health information. Do you understand the directions on your pill bottle? Could you explain your condition to a child? If you leave your healthcare provider’s office without fully understanding instructions you were given, you are more likely to have medication errors, end up in the hospital, and have a higher level of sickness.

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