Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dr Jaya Bajaj reviews our book Decoding Medical Gobbledygook

Dr Jaya Bajaj reviewed our book, on her website,
Here's her review

Medical care has become complex in last few decades and there is growing mistrust in healthcare. The “Care” seems to be disappearing from health care and not just patients but also health care professionals feel lost in the plethora of information. Most Medical Schools focus on teaching the “science” of medicine and as a result there are very few health care providers who can practice the “Art” of Medicine along with science.
In “Decoding Medical Gobbledygook” authors layout a matrix of Health Literacy covering basic information on what health literacy is and why it is important to addressing health literacy from the point of view of various stakeholders. “Health Literacy in India, where Health Literacy is not the most talked about subject by any of the stakeholders, this book offers a fairly comprehensive review of the problem. As Dr. Malpani mentions in the book “This is a huge challenge as well as a great opportunity”
Who should read this book?
I recommend this book to be read not just by doctors, medical students and all healthcare stakeholders but also by patients and caregivers. The book has been published under creative common’s license and is free to be viewed online here.
What is Health Literacy and why we should care?
One of the definitions of Health Literacy used in the book (Canadian Expert Panel) is- “The ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across the life course. Thus, Health Literacy demands not just the ability to read, but also the skills of listening, analyzing and decision making, and the ability to apply these skills in the health context”. The authors clarify in the very first chapter that it is important to distinguish health literacy from health education and health communication. Health literacy empowers patients and helps them navigate better through the health care system with better outcomes.
In Chapters 3 and 4, the authors go on to explain how low health literacy can be detrimental to not just patients but health care professVls as well. The next few chapters cover information on assessing health literacy and strategies to iVve it at multiple levels. Health literacy is a complex problem and there is a need to sensitize various stakeholders in healthcare. “It takes a village” to solve a problem of this magnitude and chapters 10 and 11 explain this beautifully. Instead of blaming each other and expecting someone else to come solve the problem of health literacy, we all have to recognize our roles and empower us with information on how we can become health literate as well help the community improve the health literacy.
Health literacy in India:
India is a very diverse country with multiple cultures, languages, as well as belief systems. While we can learn and adapt the things that have worked in western societies, we have to find local solutions. Chapter 13 sheds light on the barriers and issues but also brings some inspirational stories from India and shares the “bright spots” in the system that we all can learn from.
With technological advances happening in urban as well rural India, technology can be used efficiently to promote health literacy. The book gives an extensive listing of  technology resources that can be used
My two cents:
I wish the book gets published in few Indian languages- atleast in Hindi since we have a major patient readership in India using Hindi.
Health Literacy is a globV challenging issue and highly neglected. It’s inspiring to see books like Decoding Medical Gobbledygook to move the cause of Health Literacy forward. I like the way the book has been structured. This book offers a 360 degree view of health literacy problem as well as a comprehensive list of resources available (at the end of the book).
I agree with Dr. Malpani that there we have to improve health literacy one person at a time. Health literacy gives doctors an opportunity to CARE where CARE stands for (as mentioned in the book)
R- Respect
E- Effective care
The book has been published under creative common’s license and is free to be viewed online here.
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