Today’s healthcare system is complex and navigating it can be difficult, overwhelming and when one is sick, it can become even more challenging. In turn, this can compromise one’s ability to find, understand and use information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
Age is one of the highest correlations to low health literacy. In fact, older age is a stronger predictor of health literacy than socioeconomic status; health literacy is lower even for older adults with high levels of education and good health. Adults ages 65 and older make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.
Challenges with health literacy exacerbate poor communication between patients and healthcare providers. Patients with low literacy rates are less likely to seek preventive care, less able to manage chronic conditions and have a higher rate of hospitalizations and use of emergency services. Given the complex nature of managing chronic diseases and age-related health decline, low-literate individuals who fall into these categories, especially low literate older adults, are at a much higher risk of death. Additionally, a study by the UnitedHealth Group in 2020, found that increasing health literacy levels could potentially result in 6% fewer hospital admissions, 5% fewer readmissions and 4% fewer emergency department (ED) visits each year.
To make a positive impact, increase communication and improve health literacy, we need to focus on the effects that language, culture and diversity has on patient outcomes. Telligen is committed to creating a culture of health equity inside our organization and with the communities we serve. Therefore, all our efforts are carried out through a lens of improving health literacy and communication. We invite you to join us and take action in your organization to improve health literacy and communication by:
- Contact Telligen for customized coaching in developing and implementing a health literacy action plan using the National CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) Standards developed by the National Office of Minority Health.
- Use Telligen’s CLAS Standards needs assessment to identify gaps and opportunities to improve health literacy and culturally appropriate health information and services.
- Visit the Telligen’s health equity resource library in the portal to access resources, interventions and information to improve health literacy and CLAS Standards in your organization.
- Contact us to provide training for staff and leadership on implementing the CLAS Standards and other learning opportunities to ensure your providing language access and culturally relevant care for the communities you serve.
- Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) | The Blueprint, Guidance on the National CLAS Standards: https://thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/clas/blueprint
- CMS | Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective: https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Outreach/WrittenMaterialsToolkit/downloads/ToolkitPart04Chapter02.pdf
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Aging (NIA) | Talking With Your Older Patients: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/talking-your-older-patients
- NIH NIA | Tips for Communicating with Older Patients: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/talking-your-older-patients#tips
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH): https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) | Health Literacy Data Map: http://healthliteracymap.unc.edu
For more information on Telligen’s Health Equity Framework or to request a CLAS training or customized technical assistance, please reach out to Belinda Rogers, firstname.lastname@example.org or Temaka Williams, email@example.com.