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Nashville hospital foundation releases one-sheets to improve health literacy

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Posted at 3:00 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 13:03:42-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Nashville General Hospital Foundation released one-sheet references on various health topics including the coronavirus variants in an effort to combat health illiteracy.

"Health literacy doesn't have everything to do with your ability to read or whether you graduated from sixth grade or whether you read English at all; it's about understanding," said Vernon Rose, executive director of Nashville General Hospital Foundation.

She said she realized she had a lot to learn a few years ago.

"I went to the doctor... and she gave me a bunch of instructions and she goes, ‘Do you have any questions?’ And I say, ‘No,’ she goes, ‘I'm going to give you a prescription. You got any questions?’ And I say ‘no,’ because in my head, I'm going, ‘I can figure it out.’ I'm a perfect example of health illiteracy. Because I thought I had it right. And for years, I had it wrong," Rose said.

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Nashville General Hospital Foundation Executive Director Vernon Rose

"Eighty-eight percent of the United States adult population is either low to moderately health illiterate. Now, we know that more than 12% of the U.S. population has a law degree or a college degree or, you know, fill in the blank or graduated from high school or reads the Bible every night," Rose said. "It's not literacy, it's being able to take what can be very complex information — especially when you're ill — and understanding that you can ask those questions, that you've got comfort, and that you've got a way to do that. So, it has nothing to do with your intelligence, and everything to do with your own self-competence to ask that next question."

Lilia Medina is a nurse and case manager at Nashville General Hospital. She passes out the one-sheets to patients during post-operation appointments and said they all have been grateful to have bullet-pointed explanations to their questions.

"The better educated your patient is, regardless of what their diagnosis is, if it's major, minor, if you can get them educated, and they understand their disease process, you will have a healthier individual," Medina said.

The one-sheets cover topics ranging from how to get the most out of a doctor's appointment, to healthy eating habits to explaining the COVID-19 variants.

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Nashville General Hospital Nurse and Case Manager Lilia Medina

In addition to reaching out to patients, Rose explained the foundation is talking with physicians.

"It really requires them to slow down, listen... stopping long enough before your hand goes on the door," Rose said. "And instead of asking the question, ‘Is there anything that you want to ask me?'...flip that question and think about, ‘What would that patient want to know that I've got?’"

The foundation has partnered with 80 Nashville organizations, including the chamber of commerce for the "Nashville Takes on COVID" effort, and will work together with them to disseminate the one-sheets at clinics, hospitals, doctor's offices and food pharmacies.

"If we keep repeating the same message, that we're here to provide you information in a way that you can understand it... then we're going to have a better and healthier community," Rose said.

To read and/or download the Foundation's one-sheets, click here.

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Health illiteracy is as simple as mixing up a teaspoon from your silverware drawer to measure liquid medicine when your doctor intended you to measure a teaspoon with measuring spoons.