Endocrine Abstracts (2011) 26 P706

Health illiteracy as a challenge in contemporary endocrinology

K Marczewski1,2, M Rebisz1 & J Wrobel1


1John Paul the II Regional Hospital, Zamosc, Poland; 2Institute of Physiotherapy University of Management and Administration, Zamosc, Poland.


Introduction: According to American Medical Association Health literacy means a group of skills, including reading and basic math skills that allow smooth functioning in the health care system. Despite the universality of schools in Europe, the problem of secondary or functional illiteracy did not only exist but seems to be growing. This is also a great ethical problem, because the illiteracy makes, e.g. fictive so basic patients right as informed consent. The reasons for this are ‘external’ to the endocrinology or closely linked to it. ‘External’ are the quality of the education system, the omnipresence of the images in interpersonal communication, overwhelming tendency of lawyers to write more and more difficult texts and …internet. This is a useful medium for teaching us a very selective reading, often only the headlines. ‘Internal’ reasons means limited efficacy of our treatment especially for diabetes, arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Especially in the elderly, this also applies to thyroid disease and/or electrolyte imbalance. Important problem is also hidden nature of the phenomenon, which illustrated our small study. In our Department of Endocrinology, we investigated consecutive patients who are willing to participate and did not declare some problems with reading. The ability to read and understand was examined based on 2 texts: health impact of salt, patient’s information about one medicament and commonly used pictograms.

Results: About 30% of patients had some difficulties with these texts. Surprising the most difficult task was the interpretation of pictograms (25%) and most easy the consideration about salt (4%).

Conclusion: The quantitative extrapolation of our date would be ineligible, but our observation maybe could stimulate other studies and more wide reading examination, at least before we give our patients to read medical information or card of his/her fundamental rights.

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