So what was really going on? Lori, who is part of a market research group, asked the Literacy Council if she could meet with several of our students who struggle with reading. She met with our students individually and had them read instructions for how to apply a cream that is going from a prescription medication to over-the-counter. The whole point was to make sure the directions were clear enough for the general public. This research is a requirement by the Federal Drug Administration. The standard practice for over the counter medication instructions to be written at a 4th to 5th grade reading level. “The FDA found that consumers thought words like "indications," "precautions," and "contraindications" were confusing and not easily understood.” Think about that! And that’s the whole point of Health Literacy month - to promote the importance of understandable health information and the use of plain language.
Plain language, that’s something I can get behind. Even if you don’t struggle with reading, there are plenty of ways to get confused about health information. Have you ever tried to read those instruction sheets that come all folded up with your prescriptions? You either need five hands to unfold them or a magnifying glass to read them. Or try reading the fine print of your health insurance plan - PPO, EOB, stop-loss, indemnity insurance. It’s easy to get confused when making such a big decision.
That’s where the Literacy Council comes in for those who do struggle with reading. In addition to basic reading literacy, the Literacy Council is works with students with many kinds of literacy, including financial literacy, computer literacy, and quantitative literacy. Because in the United States there are still 36 million adults who can’t read at a third grade level.
We think Illiteracy of any kind sucks. But health literacy could be a matter of life and death. Can you imagine trying to give your child medicine but not being able to read the directions properly? How about understanding blood sugar levels or signs of infection after a surgery? If the directions are not in plain language, those 36 million people with reading difficulties, can suffer. The Literacy Council is happy to be a part of the effort promoting health literacy because it matters to the students we serve everyday. We’re also proud to be a part, even if a small part, of helping researchers make the directions on drug label more readable.
If you know someone who needs help reading, visit our website to see how we can help. You can find our referral form here. http://www.limaliteracy.net/literacy-council-referral-page.html