Language Matters – Bridging the Health Literacy Gap

May 8, 2019

Nearly 90 million people in the U.S. have difficulty understanding and acting upon health information, which affects their ability to make informed healthcare decisions. Health literacy affects an array of medical decisions, from dietary choices, to major decisions like which cancer treatment plan to pursue. People everyday make decisions about their health or the health of a loved one, but 90% of adults have a hard time utilizing the health information provided in healthcare facilities, by the media, and available in communities. The ability to obtain, process and understand health information to make appropriate (and often difficult) decisions is known as health literacy.

Health literacy affects individuals on many levels, from their ability to navigate the healthcare system, fill out complex health forms, find providers and services, and engage in self-care. If patients and their families cannot understand health information, then attempts to improve their quality of care, introduce new treatment options, and the ability to act upon this information becomes increasingly difficult.

Barriers to clinical trial participation

Health literacy is a key barrier to clinical trial participation. Patients often struggle to understand and make decisions about research participation or are unaware that other options exist. The more patients and healthcare providers understand key terminology, the more we can empower informed decision-making and make clinical research more relevant. To help in this endeavor we’ve collected a list of key terms that we often use and hear in the health and medical space, and in discussions of clinical trials. It’s our hope that this knowledge will help patients and providers understand their options and advance access to research for all.

Our glossary

The glossary below contains words and phrases related to clinical trials and healthcare. The definitions are tailored to the work we do at Javara.

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