The Lack of Health Literacy has Cascading Effect
BY GLENN ELLIS | THE PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE ELLIS
As public schools lose funding from debt-ridden state budgets, school administrators are being forced to cut “non-essentials,” meaning fewer teachers and more students in classes, all of which can have a negative effect on student achievement and competency in later grades — especially for disadvantaged students; many of whom will end up poorer and sicker throughout their adult life.
In the United States, African Americans in particular fare worse than the majority population on nearly all measures of health, including infant mortality, life expectancy, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and trauma incidence. Individuals with low levels of educational attainment and income also tend to experience higher rates of illness and death, regardless of race.
People of all ages, races, incomes and education levels can find it difficult to obtain, communicate, process and understand health information and services. I have long been concerned, and have advocated, about the link between health and education.
Education and literacy rank as key determinants of health, along with income and income distribution, employment, working conditions and the social environment.
However, this issue continues to cause needless suffering, death and costs. Health literacy is becoming increasingly important for social and economic development.
Health literacy is defined as: the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, communicate, process and understand the basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. In other words, health literacy is the ability to make good health decisions every day.
More than 90 million people in the United States — about the same number of people in France, Belgium and the Netherlands combined — have a hard time understanding and using health information.
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