Health Literacy is having the ability to find, understand and use basic health information to make good decisions about your health and issues that you might be facing. 

“We know that making good decisions about our health requires accurate and correct information,” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program Specialist Erica Reyes said. “But for some, that can be hard to find and use without increasing their level of health literacy.

“For example, it could be challenging to find a healthcare provider, have a meaningful discussion about your care, and follow a self-care plan without having a good understanding of basic health, or a good level of health literacy.”

There is a lot of misinformation about health that gets shared on websites and social media. When looking for accurate health information, a good place to start are websites that end in “.edu” or “.gov”. Those endings mean that the website belongs to a university or a government health agency.

In addition, groups such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Center for Disease Control are good places to find health information that is accurate and easy to understand.

To increase knowledge and find support, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s programs for healthy living, like Better Living for Texans & Step Up Scale Down empower participants with science-based health information increasing their level of health literacy.

The barrier is not always a lack of education. It may be that the patient has difficulty hearing or remembering parts of the conversation with their healthcare provider. Taking someone along to appointments to take notes or ask questions may be helpful.

Reyes recommends that health care providers and health educators assist by identifying each person’s level of health literacy and remembering to not use medical terms that are difficult to understand. 

“It is important that we use language tailored to each individual, and supplement education with take-home materials that are accessible to everyone in our community,” Reyes added.

For more information about Texas A&M AgriLife Extension health programs, contact the San Patricio County Extension Office at 361-587-3400.

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