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UVa Increasing Health Literacy

October 8, 2008

When you leave your doctors appointment do you really understand your diagnosis? Do you have the information you need?

October is health literacy awareness month and the University of Virginia Medical Center is reaching out to the community to help people better understand their health care.

UVa officials say it's important to understand information about your health care because often times low health literacy leads to poor health conditions.

“It tends to make the care of patients with conditions like diabetes, heart failure pulmonary disease worse because for many cases they don't have access to the same level of care or the same self care skills that someone with higher literacy might be able to obtain,” said Michael Pignone, Professor, University of North Carolina Chapel School of Medicine.

That's why UVa is teaching patients as well as health care providers how to obtain the right information and how to use it when they get it.

“One of the programs is with literacy providers so people who teach folks how to read so that they can learn how to read medicine labels and to learn to be safe when they're taking their medicines especially,” said Cindy Westley, UVa Patient Family Education.

UVa officials say health information can be a bit complex, but there are things you can do to increase your health literacy.

“Take advantage of the skills you do have. Write things down keep a list of your questions. Try to come to the health care visits with an agenda of what you want to get out of it. If you don't understand just keep asking questions,” said Pignone.

In addition to taking notes and asking questions officials also suggest taking someone with you to your appointments, that way you have an extra set of ears to listen to information.

UVa is sponsoring two literacy programs on Wednesday October 8th:

• “Overcoming Literacy-Related Barriers to Health”- 12:30 p.m. Jordan Conference Center at UVa Health System.

• “Health Literacy: It Is Not Just Their Problem: What We Can All Do to Help Our Clients Become Better Health Care Consumers” - 3:00 p.m. in room 235 Albemarle County Office Building, McIntire Road.

For more information about the events, please call 434-924-1607.

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