Thats the view a young University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physician expressed Wednesday (May 7) at an American Medical Association media briefing on health literacy in Washington, D.C..
Dr. Darren A. DeWalt, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and instructor in medicine and pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine, based his conclusions on findings from new UNC research and an extensive review of work by other investigators over the past 20 years. Low health literacy prevents many people from receiving the full benefit of the biomedical advances of the 20th century, DeWalt said. Improving patient-physician communication is an important strategy to lessen the burden of low health literacy.
We desperately need more research to understand how to improve health outcomes for people with low health literacy, he said. Funding for such research has traditionally been poor, but the potential health payoffs are enormous.
Traditionally, doctors are not just healers, DeWalt said.
The definition of doctor from the Oxford English dictionary is that of teacher, an instructor; one who gives instruction in some branch of knowledge or inculcates opinions or principles, he said. Understanding health information does not come easily for even the most well-educated and literate individuals. Many people in our society struggle with written and spoken information.
Physicians often forget that most people seldom enter clinical settings and the medical world.
Doctors need to translate medical information to patients life experiences, and patients can help us perform this translation effectively, he said.
Studies have shown that patients, on ave
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill