Health literacy is the patient’s ability to understand and use health information so that they can follow instructions from healthcare professionals and make good decisions about their health. Low literacy level significantly reduces the success of healthcare treatment.
Low health literacy rates are prevalent throughout the developed world. As an illustration, in the USA low literacy levels are at an astonishing 88%, and in Canada levels are as high as 80%. Whilst in UK and Australia health literacy levels are around 60%.
Poor patient knowledge through low literacy is a great obstacle when dealing with the obesity epidemic.
Professor Harris highlighted this issue during 2015, research was presented at the Primary Health Care Research Conference in Adelaide, he said, “One of the problems with that is that patients with low health literacy typically won’t engage, and they won’t ask questions because they don’t understand things properly,” GPs and nurses interpreted this as a lack of interest or motivation to lose weight, he says. “But when we’ve looked at it in more depth, quite a lot of those patients want to change but they just lack the knowledge and skills to make a change to their lifestyle effectively,” he says.
Practitioners of Integrative Medicine including CAM practitioners need to also focus on this aspect of healthcare as part of their commitment to healthcare. It is important to devise integrative medicine resources that explain treatment in simple and/or diagrammatic format. Topics to promote include the benefits of the cornerstone of integrative healthcare such as:
- Preventative care
- Dietary advice
- Lifestyle modification
This information can be disseminated by:
- Governmental health departments
- Social media
- Medical journalism
- Media advocacy
For example, promoting the concept of healthy eating and yoga using sporting iconic role models or Hollywood or music celebrities will have a positive impact on health promotion and also provide basic information to the concept of integrative healthcare solutions to this cohort.
Whilst the demographic of most Integrative Medicine businesses target are the affluent from the point of view of a sustainable model, perhaps we should also consider focusing on those with low health literacy to assist widespread acceptance and growth of Integrative medicine. This approach also adheres to the spiritual aspect of healthcare which is the cornerstone of Integrative healthcare.