Conference Will Address Health Literacy
An upcoming conference sponsored by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations will address the risks of low literacy of patients, particularly for the elderly and minorities, the Chicago Tribune reports. The national symposium for health professionals, called "Health Literacy: The Foundation for Patient Safety, Empowerment and Quality Health Care," will be held June 26 through June 27.
According to the Institute of Medicine report on health literacy, roughly 50% of U.S. adults lack the literacy skills to manage their personal health care. The problem can lead to prescription medication errors; difficulty understanding informed-consent instructions, health pamphlets, insurance applications, appointment schedules; and following physician directions, the Tribune reports. In addition, U.S. adults older than age 70 with a reading level lower than 9th grade are almost twice as likely to report poor overall health and diabetes and twice as likely to report depression compared with those who have a higher literacy level, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of American Geriatric Society.
The American Medical Association reports that individuals with low health literacy often have longer hospital stays and unnecessary physician visits, costing the U.S. health care system an additional $73 billion annually.
The conference will include programs that address chronic disease management, informed consent and new methods to help patients understand the health care setting. It also will teach caregivers how to respond to patients who attempt to conceal their deficiency (Deardorff, Chicago Tribune, 6/6).
An abstract of the Journal of American Geriatric Society study is available online.