Google is great and I don’t know about you, but it has saved me a small fortune when it comes to fixing minor problems around the house. Don’t be fooled because this doesn’t make us plumbers or electricians. The ability to watch a video or read an article has given us false confidence that we can fix even more complex problems in our lives, especially when it comes to our health and wellness. We do not have the deep understanding of physiology and science that the practice of medicine requires to be a licensed practitioner.
Health literacy defines the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and the services needed to make appropriate health decisions. There are some of you that have deeper knowledge of chronic diseases that I like to call sophisticated patients. You know about treatments and monitoring and are proactive on your and your family’s behalf. Most of the public have a poor understanding and ability to use medical information and this is known as medical or health illiteracy.
Health illiteracy is a significant contributor to noncompliance with health and wellness prescriptions especially in the population of chronic disease sufferers who are already challenged by the lack of significant symptoms and cues to comply with their regimens. Lack of immediate symptoms and lack of understanding and support lead to complacency and ultimately obliviousness to the havoc that silent killers like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure may be wreaking on our bodies.
Social science studies human society and some important observations have been noted when it comes to using items and sharing information. First, people will not use things they do not understand. Second, people will typically not ask questions or engage in conversations about topics they do not understand. This leads to what is known as information asymmetry or a small group of people who have a wealth of knowledge and understanding that they can act on and benefit from. Another, usually larger group lack this knowledge and suffers some consequence.
Information asymmetry is prevalent in health and wellness. Education and teaching are essential in increasing compliance with medical and wellness plans and reducing the impact of disease. Whether or not we choose to comply results in divergent outcomes. All we need to do is compare the stories of Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Tommy “The Duke” Morrison to paint a picture of the divergence and disastrous effects of noncompliance and medical illiteracy.
Innovations are being developed at a rapid pace to reduce the “pain points” that we experience when it comes to our medical and wellness plans. Reducing pain points increases compliance and reduces the negative effects of chronic diseases over time. These innovations include the internet, social media, smart phones, health and wellness apps, sleep monitors, smart medication reminders, brain games and cognition supplements, along with new or widening applications of older techniques and therapies such as bariatric surgery and weight loss medications like semaglutide.