These monthly pages focus on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region. They educate the reader about key health issues. They inform readers about research opportunities and community resources. All articles can be accessed online at the New Pittsburgh Courier Web site. The monthly series is a partnership of the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI), the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the UPMC Center for Inclusion.

This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on health literacy—understanding health options and information in order to make good health decisions. Jennifer Jones, MPH, community engagement coordinator of Community PARTners, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, sat down to talk about why health literacy is important to all of us.

JJ:  Ms. Bush, I feel honored to be able to talk with you today about health literacy, what it means and why it’s important to all of us. This month is National Health Literacy month. After working with you and your staff at the Urban League, I know this topic is one you feel needs to be talked about more.  

EB: Yes, it’s very timely that we’re focusing our page this month on health literacy. Each day we all make decisions about our health—what to eat, what medicine to take, when to take our medicine, how much to take or whether or not we make time for exercise. We need to know where to go with questions about our health. When we visit the doctor, we need to know the best questions to ask our health care providers. Those who have children worry not only about their own health but also the health of their children. Those with aging parents make important health decisions about supportive and end-of-life care. It can be overwhelming at times!             

JJ: Yes, when you think about the many health decisions we make every day, it really adds up. Health literacy means not only knowing how and where to get accurate information but also being able to understand the information and use it to be empowered to make good decisions. Did you know that in a survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services only 12% of all Americans showed a high level of health literacy?    

EB: That doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, low reading levels can be a big culprit in leading to   low health literacy, which was why I was very happy to read about the Regional Health Literacy Coalition and the work they’re doing.

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