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Health literacy: Power to manage your healthcare!

It’s been said, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all” (Augustine Burroughs). While this may not be absolutely accurate (after all, there are things we need simply to maintain our health and life), I think that most of us would agree that health is very important.

This is why health literacy is vital. According to, health literacy is defined as “Having the ability to make informed decisions in relation to and individual’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health; Also applies to caregivers understanding the health information of a loved one.”

Health literacy is important for communication between patients and healthcare providers. Lack of health literacy results in

  • Confusion about one’s medical conditions

  • Errors in taking medication

  • Extra trips to the Emergency Department

  • Lack of preventive care

  • Later diagnosis of cancer and other serious diseases

  • Higher healthcare costs

Many people look for healthcare information online. However, internet search engines don’t filter by accuracy. What goes to the top of the search results is often the most popular information, not the most correct information. Advertising dollars also boost questionable information to the top of the results.

When you improve your health literacy, you improve your ability not only to find health information, but also to judge what information is reliable and to understand what is being said. Libraries are your friend in this effort! While we aren’t healthcare workers, and can’t give medical advice, information is our specialty!

Health literacy is one of the five literacies of the PA Forward program, in which our Meyersdale Public Library participates. We want you to know that: “Literacy is power. Libraries provide the fuel. For you, for your community, for Pennsylvania.” Health literacy gives you power to manage your healthcare.

This is especially important now, with the pandemic. There is an abundance of confusion and misinformation. I’ve created a page of links to reliable information about Covid-19, as well as some related issues:

Learn more about health literacy:


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