Thursday, June 19, 2014

Article: Low health literacy level alarming, making Filipinos ‘more sick’ – doctor

Low health literacy level alarming, making Filipinos ‘more sick’ – doctor
By IBARRA C. MATEO June 18, 2014 2:57pm

The low level of health literacy among Filipinos, notably among the underprivileged, is one of the key drivers causing the ranks of unhealthy and sick Filipinos to swell at an alarming rate, medical and health industry leaders have warned.

At a recent health forum, Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Anthony Leachon described the stark situation in the country this way: “When patients come to us to seek medical advice, they are very sick already. This should not be the case. This is failure of health literacy.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”

“In the Philippines, we have failed in health literacy. Why? We have a lot of medical and health knowledge, but many Filipinos fail to comply with what is needed and must be done about their health,” Leachon said.

When both a patient and his doctor understand each other, that is a “form” of health literacy, he said. “But this is not always the case.”

Danilo Chiong, health business unit director of a pharmacy chain, illustrated the low health literacy among Filipinos buying medicines in his company's outlets.

“Thirty out of 100 of our customers who buy medicines in our outlets are actually taking hypertensive medicines. However, of the 30 patients, 12 of which will stop taking medication on the second month, and only three will continue their medication in a year’s time,” Chiong said.

“This is an alarming indication of the low level of health literacy in the Philippines,” he added.

Customers buying medications always ask questions which must be properly and appropriately answered by pharmacists. “Otherwise, the unanswered questions may lead to a bigger concern, such as self-medication or total disregard of a potential health risk,” Chiong said.

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