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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | April 3rd, 2016


    April is National Minority Health Month and the theme this year is “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation”.  This month is dedicated to making people aware of the health disparity that exists in this country. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are already quite aware. You can click here to find out what diseases affect communities of color.  It is not enough to just be aware, but it is important to take action. One way is through health literacy.

    The government 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.   It is not enough to hear that you have diabetes, but you have to understand what diabetes is and then know how it is going to affect your health before you can make a decision on how to manage diabetes. If you do not know about the problem, you cannot do anything about the problem.

    According to the National Assessment of Adult literacy, only 12 % of adults have proficient health literacy. Nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage and prevent their disease. That is pretty scary.

    How many of you have walked out of a physician’s office not quite understanding what was said? Sometimes you take a medication, not really understanding why you are taking the medication. You are not alone. Health literacy has nothing to do with whether you can read or write. Some of the medical terms sound like a foreign language.  To help, the National Patient Safety Foundation has developed the ASK Me 3® program – there are three questions that must be answered before you leave your doctor’s office.

    1. What is my main problem?
    2. What do I need to do?
    3. Why is it important for me to do this?

    By the time you leave the doctor’s office, you should be able to answer these questions. If you do not know the answers, then ask the questions again. Do not leave the office.


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