Most of us associate the word "literacy" with the ability to read and write. But, did you know that literacy can also apply to your health?
Health literacy, put simply, refers to someone who is knowledgeable and educated about their own health. In COPD, health literacy is important because without it, you wouldn't understand how to use an inhaler or what symptoms should prompt you to see your doctor. But, what about those who do struggle with this kind of important medical information?
When someone doesn't catch on quite as quickly as others about matters affecting their health, they are said to have low health literacy. Earlier research linked low health literacy to worse outcomes in diabetes and heart failure, but until recently, its relationship with COPD was unclear.
To evaluate whether low health literacy is also tied to poor health status and outcomes in COPD, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data taken from 277 COPD patients. In structured, individual interviews, health literacy was measured using three validated scoring tools including the COPD Severity Score, the COPD Helplessness Index and the Airways Questionnaire-20 (measures quality of life related to respiratory health).
After taking into account each patient's socioeconomic status, results concluded that lower health literacy in patients with COPD is associated with:
- Worse COPD severity
- Greater COPD helplessness
- Worse respiratory-specific quality of life
- Higher likelihood of COPD-related hospitalizations and ER visits
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Omachi TA., et. cal. Lower Health Literacy is Associated with Poorer Health Status and Outcomes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Aug 14.