Health Literacy: Obstacles to Quality Healthcare in Tarrant County
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Purpose: To identify the primary barriers to health literacy and the resources available to community members to optimize health literacy. Background & Conclusion: Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and the services needed to make appropriate health decisions. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, only 12% of persons in the United States are classified as proficient, meanwhile more than 25% of persons ([greater than] 77 million people) in the United States experience difficulty with mundane health tasks like following the directions on a prescription label. There are a variety of influencing factors that determine a person’s overall health literacy including demographic factors, biological, and psychosocial factors. There are four main demographic factors that influence health literacy: poverty status, race/ethnicity, education level, and age. Patients that are below the poverty status line, have minority status, have achieved less than a high school education or its equivalent, and/or are above 65 years of age are at an increased risk of possessing less than proficient health literacy. The primary biological and psychosocial aspects that influence health literacy include a patient’s lifestyle and occupation, language competency, culture, and/or cognitive ability. In Tarrant County, there are a number of accessible and expedient resources available to healthcare professionals and members of the community to optimize health literacy and subsequently, health outcomes. The resources available include: United Way of Tarrant County Health Symposium, North Texas Area Community Health Centers, Tarrant County Diabetes Collaboration, Healthy Aging and Independent Living Initiative, Health Education and Literacy Project Consortium, UNT Health Science Center, and of course, your primary care provider.