As defined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 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.”
Although many cancer programs have made significant headway in providing patient-friendly materials, health literacy related to cancer diagnosis, treatment, and post-treatment follow-up requires on-going attention. For patients with cancer, poor health literacy may result in facing increased risk of medical errors, chronic disease recurrence that leads to higher hospitalization rates, and sub-optimal health outcomes.
With this education project ACCC seeks to help cancer programs across the country to improve their health literate communication throughout the cancer care continuum.
The Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) Roundtable on Health Literacy has acknowledged 10 attributes of health literate healthcare organizations. While various factors can lead to ineffective health communication, a common factor for many patients is difficulty understanding and interpreting information about their disease when communicating with health professionals. Creating and using resources so that patients better understand basic health information can lead to patients making appropriate health decisions and improved communication with their healthcare team.
To help cancer programs evaluate their current health literacy efforts and prioritize steps for improvement, ACCC developed a health literacy gap assessment tool. This tool is intended to help cancer programs advance their delivery of patient-centered care by integrating key attributes of a health literate healthcare program. By completing the assessment tool, cancer programs can identify educational needs and pinpoint areas where targeted education could improve patient care. For more on how the assessment tool was developed, how to use the tool, and case studies from three ACCC member programs, read "Health Literacy: From Assessment to Action."
Funding & Support provided by Lilly Oncology