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Health Literacy and Your ND Practice

Health literacy may be affecting more of your patients than you realize. An estimated 90 million adults in the U.S. are affected by low health literacy. What can you do to combat low health literacy in your practice? Here are resources that can help!

Health literacy may be affecting more of your patients than you realize. The National Institute of Health, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that low health literacy affects 90 million adults in the U.S. 

Health literacy encompasses more than just the skills necessary to read. It also encompasses skills needed to:

  • Access healthcare services
  • Analyze the relative risks and benefits of recommended treatment
  • Calculate and understand dosages
  • Communicate with healthcare providers
  • Evaluate information
  • Interpret and understand test results
  • Locate health information

To be able to do these things, the patient or caregiver must be visually literate, computer literate, information literate and numerically or computationally literate. For an excellent overview of the state of health literacy, visit the National Network of Libraries of Medicine

What can you do to combat low health literacy in your practice? You can institute what is called universal health literacy precautions with all patients. Universal health literacy precautions assume that all patients may have difficulty comprehending health information and accessing health services. To institute the precautions:

  • Simplify communication and confirm comprehension
  • Make your office easier to navigate
  • Support your patient’s efforts to improve their health

Both the AANP Code of Ethics and the AANP Guidance Regarding Naturopathic Practice and Care include statements about your duty to communicate effectively with patients in terms they can understand.  

As a naturopathic physician, you understand the importance of involving your patients in their individual care. This involvement relies on their health literacy and your role as a teacher of alternative natural care methods.

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