As a physician I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet with a plethora of individuals from various communities, upbringings and backgrounds. Engaging with people from different walks of life has taught me a powerful lesson that no medical school course or anatomy textbook ever could.
Reading intertwines the human race across sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. I have witnessed first hand how powerful and important the gift of reading is. From moments where patients signed their names as X on consent forms to struggling to read a prescription bottle, I have observed how illiteracy has a profound impact on overall health. Research has also shown a significant relationship between reading ability and health outcomes.
Individuals with poor literacy skills
- are less likely to seek preventative measures such as Pap Smears and mammograms
- may have difficulty adequately managing chronic conditions like HIV, hypertension, and diabetes
- may not seek medical help due to embarrassment or shame over their reading abilities
- have higher rates of hospitalizations and use of emergency services
Truth be told- we were never told in medical school that we might face this challenge. I could not have imagined times where I would have to read instructions aloud to a patient at bedside because they were struggling to form words with letters. Rather than consider this a burden in my clinical work I see it as an opportunity to make a difference.
Healing Words Foundation was created with the mindset of promoting literacy starting at the very early stages of life. Directly targeting children within hospitals or outpatient clinics is, in a sense, a way to formally bridge the gap by directly using the health system. With a global agenda, we hope to impact literacy issues worldwide. Last spring we had our inaugural donation of 150 books to children at FOCOS Hospital in Accra, Ghana.
This winter we hope to provide even more books to hospitals who do not have sufficient reading material for their pediatric patients. By creating “mini libraries” in hospitals we anticipate not only providing the gift of reading to ill children but also making a significant stride in the fight against illiteracy.
Literacy Matters. Literacy Makes The Difference. Literacy Changes Lives.
Originally published at medium.com