Richland Public Health

The health department is celebrating Health Literacy Month in October.

MANSFIELD -- Health information is inherently complex, with medical jargon often leading to emotional reactions or feeling buried with a swarm of instruction.

"Health care providers are not typically great communicators," said Reed Richmond, health educator at the Richland Country Health Department. "Even people working the field aren't comfortable talking about the subjects."

The health department is celebrating Health Literacy Month in October, focusing on breaking down barriers for patients in order to help them have a better understanding of what medical experts are telling them.

In the process, being more health literate could lead to spending less money, Richmond said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also referred to as ObamaCare, defines Health Literacy as the degree to which an individual have the capacity to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information to make appropriate health decision, Richmond said.

"Does the patient understand and can the person delivering the care deliver the information in a way that it understandable?"

Richmond said there are many barriers that keep people from being able to understand information.

"Studies show that a significant number of people have problems reading, understanding and acting on health information," he said. "For one thing, health information is inherently complex.

"Additionally, patients bring a wide ranger of leaning needs to the health care experience," Richmond said. "Basic Literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context and emotional responses can all affect the way people receiving and process information."

Richland Public Health will have a webinar Oct. 10 and 11 for anyone interested in learning more about health literacy or becoming a better communicator of health information.

"If I tell you that there are a series of tests to find out what the problem you are having is, and give you all the test options, but don't tell you the price of the tests ... if you don't communicate those things, you can end up with a $1,000 bill.

"Doctors may be under the idea you have health insurance, but depending on who you are talking to, they may not have insurance -- or the insurance doesn't cover this or that."

Richmond recommended asking care providers if insurance covered tests and operations before partaking in them.

"They may not be able to afford it, but they are under the impression they need this," he said. "Talking about health literacy, that's a question you should know to ask your doctor: Does my insurance cover this?"

There are so many factors involved in health literacy, Richmond said.

"If you can get to a month where you can take time to make or watch webinars or decide how to do something as a medical facility, it's worth it to focus on that for a month than just saying, 'We'll get around to it eventually.'"

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.