Better Health Through Better Understanding: Our Commitment to Health Literacy
I saw it many times while working clinically - patient anger, confusion, and discouragement caused by misunderstanding or miscommunication. Sometimes miscommunication would occur because a patient spoke a different language from our staff, but other times, it was simply our staff not communicating clearly enough for the patient’s understanding. Appointments were regularly missed or canceled because patients didn’t know what was expected of them, what their appointments were for, or how missing appointments could affect their health. Unfortunately, this is the reality for healthcare offices across the country. Many racial and ethnic minorities are not given the opportunity to pursue an education that would make the health system more understandable and do not have access to quality healthcare. This oftentimes leads to a distrust of the healthcare system and decreases the likelihood of minorities seeking education about their health and well-being from health professionals. How can we relay information to racial and ethnic minorities in a way that is both understandable and meaningful?
April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM). This month-long recognition is a time to raise awareness about the importance of improving health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities, as well as reducing health disparities in these communities. This year’s theme for NMHM is Better Health Through Better Understanding, which focuses on improving health outcomes by providing minorities with culturally and linguistically appropriate health information. Studies estimate that only 14% of the U.S. population has proficient health literacy and that nearly 20% of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home. While one of the largest barriers remains the lack of appropriate translation, even English-speaking individuals have difficulty understanding and using information about their health to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. This includes understanding basic health information, such as how to read and interpret medication labels or nutrition facts, as well as more complex topics like navigating health insurance and communicating with providers.
There are several steps your health plan can take to improve health literacy for your members. These steps include:
Providing clear and concise information about policies and benefits in multiple languages
Offering educational resources that teach members how to better manage their health and prevent illness
Partnering with community organizations to provide language assistance services
At BeneLynk, we lead with help to overcome your plan members’ social health barriers, such as personal health literacy. Because BeneLynk serves communities that are largely made up of minorities, we seek to hire from these populations, so that our advocates can both literally and figuratively “speak the language” of our members. As a result, many of BeneLynk’s team are bilingual, allowing us to offer member support in a variety of languages including Spanish, English, Creole, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, and Cantonese. In addition to providing better communication to our members, we have found that this commonality with the populations we serve means that our company is infused with diverse perspectives, driving us to better understand and support the Medicare and Medicaid recipients to whom we outreach.
Improving health literacy can have far-reaching benefits for both individuals and society as a whole. By empowering people to take charge of their health, disparities can be reduced, and outcomes can be improved; however, plans must be committed to enhancing health literacy for their members, especially among speakers of other languages. If you would like to learn more about how BeneLynk is positively impacting health literacy among plan members, reach out to email@example.com. We would love to speak with you!
About BeneLynk BeneLynk is a national social care vendor for managed care companies. BeneLynk engages members to understand social determinants of health (SDoH) challenges and to provide professional advocacy to access benefits. BeneLynk removes the barriers to allow members to live their healthiest lives.