October is Health Literacy month! Today I’d like to offer you some good health literacy resources. 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. There are three main components of health literacy: to obtain, to process, and to understand.
Step one: Obtain
To obtain good health information, you need to know the difference between scientific facts and unfounded opinions. Consider the source. What’s in it for them? For example, a health food store might tell you to purchase something that you don’t really need, while the Tobacco institute asserted that smoking was safe to consume for many years. Choose scientific resources. Scientific studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals are a great place for obtaining good evidence. You don’t have to go through the journals themselves – try consumer friendly sources like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and my Plate. Seek the truth, not magic bullet. Sometimes change is hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while.
Step Two: Process
The more you read and learn, the more you will be able to process information and evaluate what you read. To successfully process health information, you must have the ability, will, and capacity to change. You can’t always control your condition. You can control your participation and willingness to learn.
Step Three: Understand
Do you understand enough of what you’re learning? Will you be able to make decisions based on your understanding? Try these steps to build up your understanding: read as much as you can (remember those credible sources), ask questions when you visit your health care team, find professionals that you trust, take notes an come up with your own action plan.
There are lots of ways to help you build health literacy – check different resources from the Nutrition experts. Remember there are lots of benefits from being well informed.
For more information on health literacy contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP assistant with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910.592.7161.