Two Major Health Care Organizations Collaborate on Health Literacy

Ever feel a little confused after visiting your doctor? Or forget which pill you’re supposed to take, and when?

You’re not alone. Surveys reveal that 90 million Americans — half of all adults — may struggle with understanding common health care information, such as prescription instructions, test results and insurance forms.

Known as “low health literacy” this limited understanding challenges people from all ages, races and income levels, and contributes to poor health outcomes. Individuals with low health literacy incur medical expenses that are up to four times greater than patients with adequate literacy skills, costing the health care system billions of dollars every year for unnecessary doctor visits and hospital stays. Compounding the problem is the fact that most patients hide their confusion from their doctors because they are too ashamed and intimidated to ask for help.

Healthy People 2010, a nationwide health promotion and disease prevention initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has identified low health literacy as a priority in improving the quality of life and eliminating health disparities for all Americans.

Now, two major health care organizations are working together to tackle low health literacy. The American Medical Association Foundation and Pfizer, Inc. have formed a partnership to address low health literacy and provide solutions for physicians and patients. Pfizer has awarded an unrestricted educational grant to the AMA Foundation to strengthen its efforts in addressing low health literacy.

“The vision of the AMA Foundation is to achieve total awareness in the medical community that health literacy must be recognized and addressed to obtain effective medical care,” comments AMA Trustee and President of the AMA Foundation Joseph Riggs, M.D.

In 1998, the American Medical Association — the country’s largest physician association — became the first national medical organization to adopt policy recognizing that limited patient literacy affects medical diagnosis and treatment.

The AMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Medical Association, has since been working to raise awareness of health literacy among physicians. However, according to recent findings, most physicians are still unfamiliar with the issue of low health literacy.

“Low health literacy is a national problem and a serious problem,” Dr. Riggs continues, “and thus we have only just begun our work. We have only scratched the surface.”

The AMA Foundation will develop and distribute health literacy informational kits to physicians and health care professionals. It will also provide grants to health literacy community service projects and link dozens of organizations across the country through the AMA Foundation’s Health Literacy Coalition.

“Our vision is simple,” says Dr. Riggs. “Physicians want to live in a world where patients can be confident that they know how to care for themselves. Patients want to care for themselves and they want to live healthier lives. We know that when physicians and patients work together, this vision will become a reality.”

Understanding health information is everyone’s right and improving health literacy is everyone’s responsibility. Low health literacy is a silent and pervasive epidemic that must be addressed. Please explore these related sites to learn how you can make a difference!

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Courtesy of ARA Content