Health literacy and what it means for you

At some point in your life, you’ll need to be able to find, understand and use health information and services. That’s where health literacy comes in. Protect your health and wellbeing by strengthening your health literacy skills with the information outlined below.

What is health literacy?

The dictionary definition of health literacy is, the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

So, what does that mean for you? Health literacy is:

  • Knowing where to seek treatment for your medical needs
  • Being confident and comfortable talking through your medical needs with your chosen healthcare professional
  • Understanding the information that is being shared with you

Ultimately, having strong health literacy skills enables you to make good health and wellness decisions based on the knowledge you have.

Your level of health literacy affects more than just your health — your skills in this area can have a significant impact on your daily life, including your happiness, your ability to live a fulfilling life, and your ability to be there for your family and friends.

Health literacy & you

At some point in your life, your health literacy will have an impact on the decisions you make. It may be through a firsthand interaction with managing your own health or by helping a family member navigating theirs.

You’ve most likely had an experience where your level of health literacy affected you without even realizing it. Have you ever found yourself in one of the following situations?

  • You avoid going to the doctor or for medical tests because you don’t always understand the language and terms being used or the importance of doing so.
  • You aren’t sure if the symptoms you’re experiencing call for a visit to your family doctor or the emergency room.
  • Your mother is looking for more information on a recent diagnosis, but she doesn’t know where to look or who to talk to.
  • You’re unsure of your health coverage, so you wait a little longer to book your dentist appointment.
  • You’re a newcomer to Canada and experience a language barrier when communicating with your doctor. You often leave your appointment feeling like you didn’t receive all the information you were seeking.

Strong health literacy skills can empower you to make your own informed decisions when it comes to your health and wellness journey. Your health literacy skills can have a positive impact on your daily life in the following ways:

  • When you notice an ailment in yourself, you know the best course of action to seek the appropriate treatment.
  • You understand the instructions for taking your new prescription medication.
  • During an appointment with your doctor, you know what follow up questions to ask to deepen your understanding.
  • When available, you bring a translator with you to your medical appointments to ensure you are understanding the information being shared.
  • After a visit to the Chiropractor, you immediately submit your claim to be reimbursed for the service.

Strengthening your health literacy skills

So now you know why it’s important to build your health literacy — what’s next? To keep moving forward and building confidence while on your health and wellness journey, consider the following points when it comes to your medical needs:

  • Know where to start. Navigating and understanding the Saskatchewan healthcare system is often a barrier to seeking care. If you are not sure on the first step, click here to read more on this topic.
  • Come prepared. When you can, take some time to prepare for your upcoming appointment. This could include reviewing and knowing your medical records, preparing a list of questions you want answered, creating a list of all the medications you are taking, and if needed, bringing a translator with you.
  • Seek additional information. Find the tools and resources that work the best for you. This could include asking for take-away materials and resources after your appointment or booking an additional appointment with your doctor or health practitioner after you have processed the information to follow up.

Ready to keep building your knowledge? Visit our Health Empowerment resources to keep building your health literacy and take care of your wellness.


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