Since the COVID’19 pandemic began, a lot of rumors about how to sanitize yourself and your surroundings have been hovering in the air, causing further panic in the public. The Cleveland Clinic and other health authorities are trying their best to wave off health illiteracy and aware people of medical knowledge.
Many people, due to lack of confidence and embarrassment, fail to convey their health problems, which usually results in an increased risk of infections. Michael S. Wolf, a supervisor at the Center for Applied Health Research on Aging at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, asserts that one out of five people faces difficulty in understanding medical information.
Peak Observed During the Pandemic
Michigan library has called out to stop microwaving the books, as it would not kill the virus after they saw burned and discolored pages of the returned books. That’s not all; the Cleveland Clinic had to issue a public message when several recipes for alcohol sanitizer started circulating on social media.
Then, the misuse of bleach caused another announcement to poison control centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strictly warned the public not to drink bleach or use it for rinsing food.
The fear of getting infected with the virus has spread out the already existing health illiteracy in the country. The half-truth and fake health statements in public are a major cause of it in this health emergency.
Wolf is also a founding director of the medical school’s Health Literacy and Learning Program. He highlights that in anxiety, it is very common to misunderstand instructions and believe in fake details. Where many people, due to embarrassment, do not accept that they have missed out on an important detail, some do not even realize it.
Jared W. Magnani, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explains, if someone is unable to get words like “immunocompromised” or “comorbidity,” they are missing out on information that could save their life.
Most of the people dying in COVID’19 is due to health illiteracy. It is commonly found in the aged group, cultural minorities, people having low income and education, and ones using English as a second language.
Medical Challenges Due to Health Illiteracy
Magnani has patients who do not accept if they have high blood pressure as they claim to have a stress-free life. Some even show excitement in seeing positive on their test results. Wolf asserts that there is a need to follow the mindset of people.
Instead of writing on medications “Take two pills, twice daily”, for better understanding, it should have “Take two in the morning and two at bedtime”. Misinterpretation and lack of following of rules on the medication by graduates of high school was a surprise to Wolf.
Philadelphia internist Melissa G. Schiffman says she has to look after patient statements carefully to avoid misdiagnosis. For example, some people claim to have kidney pain when, in reality, they have pain due to strain. While some also feel embarrassed to complain about the testicle pain, and instead, complain about pain in their groin.
Schiffman asserts that he hears now and then people complaining about medications. They fear that would cause kidney pain and not realizing that the probability of getting side effects is quite low. Some patients having symptoms of heart attack do not want to go to the ER. It is because they consider COVID’19 to be more dangerous than it.
Health illiteracy is not related to a degree. It is about rightly questioning the doctor, understanding the risks of possible treatments, and the food label.