First step to health literacy: ask questions

Todd Vandenbark

As noted in a previous post, health literacy includes everything from the ability to get care in our complex healthcare system down to being able to understand the instructions on your prescription medicine bottle. A basic foundation to being literate about healthcare is the ability to ask questions. But if your primary language is not English, it can be a source of poor communication between patient and healthcare provider. According to the 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report, Hispanics were “significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to report poor communication” with their healthcare provider. They are more likely to ask friends or casual acquaintances for advice that should come from trained professionals.

The U.S. government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Ad Council have teamed up to launch a national health campaign aimed at empowering Latinos to ask their doctors questions.

Television, radio, print and Web ads in $30 million worth of donated advertising space will run in Latino-centric media showing people with ailments such as a bad back getting conflicting advice in places such as the laundromat and the barbershop before going to the doctor (from Fox News Latino).

The campaign is called Conoce las Preguntas (Know the Questions), and the advertisements direct viewers to the campaign’s website, which provides a kind of “roadmap” to a doctor’s visit. For example, it encourages patients to be clear on prescription instructions, and offers suggested follow-up questions to medical diagnoses. And it includes humorous videos such as this one showing  one Latino man asking for advice on an earache, and getting a variety of answers. (Click on the triangle-shaped “play” button to show the video.)

Video Credit: REVOLUCIÓN