Working to Improve Health and Financial Literacy.
Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.
Health literacy is dependent on individual and systemic factors:
Communication skills of lay persons and professionals
Lay and professional knowledge of health topics
Demands of the healthcare and public health systems
Demands of the situation/context
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Health literacy affects people’s ability to:
Navigate the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk
Health literacy includes numeracy skills. For example, calculating cholesterol and blood sugar levels, measuring medications, and understanding nutrition labels all require math skills. Choosing between health plans or comparing prescription drug coverage requires calculating premiums, copays, and deductibles.
In addition to basic literacy skills, health literacy requires knowledge of health topics. People with limited health literacy often lack knowledge or have misinformation about the body as well as the nature and causes of disease. Without this knowledge, they may not understand the relationship between lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise and various health outcomes.
Health information can overwhelm even people with advanced literacy skills. Medical science progresses so rapidly that what we learned last year often becomes outdated or forgotten, or it is incomplete.
Why do we care?
Only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In other words, nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. Fourteen percent of American adults (30 million people) have below basic health literacy. These adults were more likely to report their health as poor (42 percent) and are more likely to lack health insurance (28 percent) than adults with proficient health literacy.
Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services. Both of these outcomes are associated with higher healthcare costs.
We must work together to ensure that health information and services can be understood and used by all Early County residents. We must engage in skill building with healthcare consumers and health professionals. Adult educators in our GED program can be productive partners in reaching adults with limited literacy skills.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) defines financial literacy as: “The ability to make informed judgments and to take effective actions regarding the current and future use and management of money.”
The ability to understand financial choices
Plan for the future
Manage the challenges associated with life events like: -Job loss-Saving for retirement-Paying for a child’s education
An international survey recently found that American teens scored in the middle of the pack when it came to answering finance-related questions. The survey found that 18 percent of the American 15-year-olds surveyed could not answer basic financial questions or handle simple tasks, like understanding an invoice.
The United States has one of the most developed financial markets in the world, and a country with the most developed financial markets should not be average, given the decisions young people are already asked to make, like whether to take out student loans. Just as students learn math and English, they should learn financial literacy because it is also a basic skill that young people need. Although research on the effectiveness of financial literacy courses is mixed, that doesn’t matter….In other words, personal finance is so important that it should be part of a curriculum, regardless of whether it’s proven to influence later financial decisions or not.