The modern health care system is based on the presumption that patients have at least some basic understanding of various health care needs and services. Sadly, the system fails to take the fact into consideration that in a country where a majority of people are still only marginally literate, awareness about healthcare naturally does not hold much priority.
Thankfully, this trend is undergoing a slow yet gradual change as an increasing number of people are voluntarily contributing to improving health literacy in India. These volunteers include students pursuing a course in medicine from the best BSc colleges in India, expert medical practitioners and even the common people who are aware of the issue.
What Is Health Literacy?
Before understanding the significance of health literacy, it is important to first understand what the term itself stands for. A technical definition of health literacy is the ability of an individual to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services. In more simpler terms, health literacy can be defined as the ability of individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being based on their understanding of the problems they suffer from, their short and long term effects, and the solutions available for the same. It also helps them plan their health care in a better manner and minimize the risk of chronic issues.
Significance Of Health Literacy
Most people are unaware of the fact that their level of health can deeply impact their overall fitness and even life expectancy. This can be understood with the help of a simple example of a person from diabetes. A person having high health literacy is likely to be fully aware of the impact of the ailment on his/her body.
Consequently, such an individual is more likely to understand the need to follow a proper fitness regime and take a balanced and nutritious diet for effectively managing the disease. On the other hand, a person with poor health literacy is unlikely to consider this method of preventive care. Such individuals are likely to face various other medical problems caused by their poorly managed diabetes and this will surely impact the quality of their life.
Disadvantages Of Poor Health Literacy
Poor health literacy often results in poor health management and higher medical care costs. In addition, it can prove disadvantageous in the following ways.
- It reduces individual fitness levels significantly: Lowhealthcare awareness often makes people take their fitness and well-being issues casually. They tend to fall ill more often and this naturally increases their medical bills by a significant margin. Moreover, it also impacts their overall personality and professional performance which can, in turn, impact their financial stability.
- It increases the frequency of hospitalization: Research has proven that people with low health literacy tend to be hospitalized more often. Their poor understanding of their health care needs often leads them to indulge in activities that can negatively impact their overall well-being. They suffer from increased mental and physical stress which further impacts their health.
- It reduces the overall life expectancy: Individuals with poor health literacy tend to avoid preventive care strategies. In addition to further complicating the medical problems for them, such behaviour also impacts their overall life expectancy. They also become extremely reliant on medication which can have really serious side-effects with long term use.
Ways To Improve Health Literacy
In order to improve health literacy among the masses, it is important for health care systems, health care professionals and health care organizations to work together. From a simple undergraduate of Bachelor of Cardiovascular Technology to the topmost medical professional, every individual needs to contribute towards creating awareness about this issue. They need to talk to their patients, speak on the topic at seminars and spread the message in any way they can.