While many patients opt not to read over-the-counter and prescription drug labels, those with low literacy sometimes cannot. Daunted by unfamiliar terminology and confusing or dense instructions, they may take the wrong dosage or be unaware of a potentially dangerous side effect. This is a serious concern for health providers who worry about complications or even fatalities that can result from medication misuse.
EDC’s Adult Literacy Media Alliance (ALMA) has developed “Health Smarts While You Wait,” a volunteer-based health literacy program implemented in clinic and hospital waiting rooms to help patients improve their health literacy and manage their healthcare more effectively.
Funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, the program addresses three critical skill areas: reading medical labels, managing multiple medications, and monitoring chronic illness in a medical journal.
Patients are offered an English/Spanish booklet that uses everyday language and diagrams to illuminate key information on labels. It also includes answers to such questions as: If you start feeling better, can you stop taking this medicine? Is this medicine OK for your four- year-old child?
ALMA-trained volunteers use video, print materials, pill dispensers, and large-print labels.
ALMA has partnered with hospitals and health organizations throughout the New York metropolitan area and is now expanding the program to other institutions.
Originally published on May 1, 2007