Executive Summary “Improving Health Begins with Understanding” A CIGNA Foundation Thought Leadership Forum
In 2007 CIGNA Foundation’s Thought Leadership Forum hosted Improving Health Begins with Understanding, which reached these conclusions about literacy and health.
- People avoid what they don’t understand. Fear, shame, anxiety and confusion often drive personal health care decisions.
- Poor health literacy knows no demographic limits. Age, education, ethnicity, income, and gender are not reliable predictors.
- Demography does drive content. Different groups understand information in different ways.
- Reading literacy isn’t health literacy. Being able to read a professional journal doesn’t necessarily mean someone can understand the instructions on a prescription drug bottle.
- Fluency isn’t communication. Being able to speak a language doesn’t mean someone can understand a doctor’s instructions delivered in that language.
- Communication is multi-faceted. Printed material, audio/visual elements, electronic information and face-to-face interaction must all work together.
- Success will be slow and incremental. At first, improvements depend on listening, understanding and responding to people’s needs on a case by case basis.
- Failure is not an option. Poor health literacy is costing our country in terms of dollars and lost productivity, threatening not just our nation’s health, but our future.
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 decisions.
– Parker & Ratzan, 2001