With nearly half the U.S. adult population lacking health literacy skills needed to understand and act on health information and health system demands, Health Net, Inc. is taking steps to support the goal of Health Literacy Month and promote the importance of providing consumers with health information that’s clear, simple and easy to understand.

“Studies have shown that there’s a link between low health literacy and poor health outcomes,” said Patricia Buss, M.D., medical and health care services operations officer for Health Net. “At Health Net, one of our top priorities is helping our members maximize their health. That’s why we created our Clear & Simple program.”

Launched in 2010, the Clear & Simple program provides Health Net employees with an understanding of health literacy and its impact on health care, and teaches them how to communicate with members more effectively using plain language.

As part of its support for Health Literacy Month, Health Net’s Cultural & Linguistics Services department is holding “plain language” training sessions for Health Net employees throughout October.

“This is the time of year when many consumers will be making choices about their health coverage,” said Buss. “Health Net recognizes that these are important decisions, so we’re focused on making our information and enrollment materials easy to navigate and comprehend.”

The Clear & Simple program seems to be making an impression on Health Net members. Recently, Tucson, Ariz., resident Janet Schaefer wrote about her health-insurance-shopping experience in a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star. She described her pleasure with the materials she received from Health Net: “Health Net guided me through this every step of the way with materials that are clear, concise and helpful.”

“With validation like that, we believe our communications are striking the right clear-and-simple chord,” said Buss.

What is Health Literacy?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) defines health literacy as the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

The Need for Higher Health Literacy

As part of its National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted its first-ever survey to measure health literacy. The following findings, from that study and a publication from the ODPHP, point to a need to improve health literacy among American adults:
  • Nearly one third of American adults likely have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart;
  • Limited health literacy affects adults across racial and ethnic groups. The proportion of adults with basic or below basic health literacy ranged from 28 percent of white adults to 65 percent of Hispanic adults; three quarters of the adults without a high school diploma had below basic level health-literacy skills or basic level health-literacy skills; and
  • Both publicly insured and uninsured adults had lower health literacy skills compared to privately insured adults; and more than two-thirds of adults over the age of 75 had below basic level health literacy skills or basic level health literacy skills.

The relationship between health literacy and health outcomes similarly highlights the need to improve health literacy. The ODPHP summarized key research study findings that focused on this relationship:
  • People with limited health literacy skills are more likely than those with adequate health literacy to have chronic conditions and are less able to manage them effectively;
  • Those with limited health literacy skills are more likely than those with adequate health literacy to forgo preventive measures such as mammograms, Pap smears, and flu shots; and
  • Limited health literacy skills are associated with an increase in preventable hospital visits and admissions.

“Increasing health literacy should be a shared goal throughout our industry – and throughout the year – not just during Health Literacy Month,” said Buss.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer

The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.8 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net also offers behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs, managed health care products related to prescription drugs, managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers, and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at www.healthnet.com.

This release contains references and links to other websites that may contain content that is not owned or controlled by Health Net. Please be aware that references or links to other websites are provided for the user’s convenience and that Health Net is not responsible for any such content that is not owned or controlled by Health Net. Health Net does not express an opinion on any such content and disclaims any liability in connection therewith.

Copyright Business Wire 2010