What does it mean to be optimally literate on health aspects?
For people to remain healthy and enjoy good health until their old age, it is important that they know about the health system, how to navigate it, and about prevention and self-care actions that can benefit them. This means being optimally educated on health aspects.
In this context, on September 30, the webinar “What does it mean to be optimally literate on health aspects? was held, organized by Fedefarma, with the aim of highlighting the importance of hearing and communicating clearly with patients and thus, impacting on their self-care.
This session involved the participation of Ana Cristina Bolaños Aguilar, Leader of Non-Governmental Organizations in Central America and the Caribbean at Roche; Eva María Ruíz de Castilla, Founder and Director of the Latin American Academy of Patients (LAPA), Rodney López, Director of Patient Affairs for Latin America at MSD; as well as with the moderation of Urimara Argotti, Regional Manager of Regulatory Policy for LATAM in Roche and Leonardo Semprún, Director of Regulatory Policies for Latin America for MSD.
Access to information
First, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), literacy or health education is defined as the cognitive and social skills that determine the ability of people to access information, understand it and use it in a way to promote and maintain good health.
Likewise, health literacy involves the following spheres:
Listening and communicating with the patient
It is evident that, to promote health literacy, organizations working in the health area must communicate clearly, so that individuals understand the information and make correct decisions.
In this sense, the importance of listening and clearly communicating is highlighted; because “our objective as an industry, in what has to do with health literacy, is to make communication clearer for patients”, as Rodney López highlighted.
This is important because health literacy provides tools that enable patients to access, use services, navigate health systems, and act to prevent disease.
Likewise, effective communication is important at all health levels.
In this sense, it is essential for each person to be aware that the words used are understandable. The director of Patient Affairs for Latin America at MSD emphasized that health professionals must be aware of their professional language and abstain from using it with patients or must assume the responsibility of explaining the terms in an understandable way, in common language. “The communication process and the doctor-patient dynamics require clarity and innovation,” he said.
To exemplify the above, López commented that, instead of talking about a dermatologist, we can talk about a skin doctor; instead of referring to hypertension, we can speak of high pressure in the tubes in which the blood circulates; and so on with many other terms that can be exchanged for simpler explanations, to give patients a better understanding.
Impact on self-care
Hence, “health literacy impacts self-care and disease prevention, because if you have a higher level of literacy, patients are more likely to make decisions to benefit their health,” as Eva María Ruíz de Castilla stated.
Therefore, patients must be experts and protagonists of their health, so that they have more and more control over it.
Furthermore, it is important to consider that, as Ana Cristina Bolaños Aguilar reported, “we are in an emerging trend, in which we really must ensure that patients are no longer passengers in health systems and become co-pilots, who can influence health decisions. That way we may achieve more sustainable and resilient health systems.”
In this way, “if we are more health literate, we will have a healthier society. We must continue to promote the knowledge of others about health” added Eva María Ruiz.
Finally: we are all patients
We should not disregard the fact that all of us at some point in our lives are or have been patients. That is why health literacy is important to everyone.
We need to use a common language, considering the audiences, the content and how we are going to present it. Because we see health as the goal of well-being and we must communicate as clearly as possible.
On the other hand, the importance of adopting patient-centered care approaches is highlighted, which must be accompanied by improvements in health literacy, because we are all fundamental to building a healthy well-being in the region.
Hence, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that health literacy is a task for everyone – not only for the health professional. We must find a way to collaborate in our progress towards promoting ways of communicating to ensure health progress in the region.
Webinar “What does it mean to be optimally literate on health aspects? Fedefarma
* The information contained herein is a summary of the webinar that portrays the perspective of the experts and does not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts or opinions of FIFARMA or its members. Any content provided by our experts is their opinion and is not intended to defame any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone, or anything.