How Health Literacy & Health Care Costs Collide

The Healthcare Affordability Act (Obamacare) has the opportunity to reduce the huge health literacy gaps in Americans. Find out more about sleep apnea treatment from Positive Health Wellness – One’s ability to read, listen, and comprehend health information is an important element of maintaining and improving health. However, 90 million people in the United States exhibit less than adequate health literacy skills. Given that more than 70 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases, it is certain that every physician’s practice is affected by health literacy issues. Persons with limited health literacy skills make greater use of services designed to treat complications of disease and less use of services designed to prevent complications

Numerous studies have found that outcomes can be improved with targeted patient education take into account patients’ health literacy levels. Finally, the health care system is beginning to recognize this problem and take action to overcome negative impact of poor health literacy.

One way health and nutrition can be improved is utilizing the Affordable Care Act requirement that all insurance companies provide preventive services at no cost to the subscriber. Risks for chronic disease fall into this categories, along with others. Behavioral counseling can be provided to promote healthy diet including intensive behavioral dietary counseling for adult with hyperlipidemia and hypertension risk factors for CVD and diet related chronic disease. This service can be delivered by PCPs or by referral to registered dietitians. In most cases, these services will be provided at no cost to the insured. This is a critical portion of the HCA that should remain intact, as many believe health & nutrition literacy are important to reducing costs and improving outcomes.

The Most Expensive Health Condition in America
Let’s take a look at the most expensive health condition in America: heart disease & stroke. Current estimates a $312 billion dollar cost to provide state of the art care to people diagnosed with heart disease. And this price tag is growing every year, due to the aging of the population.

In multiple landmark studies, nutrition services provided by a dietitian coach have been shown to reduce markers of chronic disease. These studies include: DASH (Dietary Changes to Stop Hypertension trials), DPP (Diabetes Prevention Trials), Lyon Heart Study and, more recently, the Predimed Study. They all have shown working with a registered dietitian to develop better meal plans, eating habits, nutrition & health literacy will improve outcomes.

Understanding nutrition information often requires understanding complex scientific concepts. Nutrition education strategies tailored to the diverse learning needs of individuals are essential to ensure understanding of and adherence to dietary recommendations. The better one understands the messages they receive about their health, the more likely they are to be successful in taking steps toward behavior change and a healthier lifestyle.

As stated in Healthy People 2010, health literacy is a necessary ingredient for: “…improved communication, greater adherence to treatment regimens, greater ability to engage in appropriate self-care, improved health status, and greater efficiency and cost savings to the health system as a whole”

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