Healthcare Literacy

May 21st, 2017

One of my biggest pet peeves is that we are not teaching our children health and wellness in schools like we should.  How do I know this?  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen young adults coming to me for common cold symptoms (cough, sneezing, fevers) for one or two days and have not taken any cold remedies from their local pharmacy or stayed home from school or work.  It astounds me that they would feel it necessary to take time to see a physician for what is a typical cold without making an effort to try to make themselves better.  I’m not surprised the healthcare system is burdened by unnecessary and wasteful medical expenses.  Now, I will say there have been times when a cold becomes a pneumonia, but that is quite infrequent.

I suggest that instead of something like calculus (which I’m sure we all use in our daily lives!), we should be teaching our children mandatory courses on basic first aid, appropriate use of the healthcare system (do I need to go to the ER?), cost-effective use of the healthcare system (“should I go to the ER or urgent care or primary care provider?”), nutrition and sexual health.  Imagine you bought an expensive car, wouldn’t you want to know how to deal with problems that come up so you don’t have to go to a mechanic each time your tires are a little low on air?  Now think of your body as one of the most expensive cars, and you don’t get another one for the rest of your life!  Isn’t information to keep your body going worth that much more than knowing the area under a parabola?

Given recent cuts to education budgets, I don’t think we’ll see a more comprehensive health education system anytime soon.  My suggestion is that we all start at home.  If you have children, don’t just give the lectures on the “birds and the bees”, tell them what they can do if they have a cold or the flu.  Not sure what to do yourself?  Ask your physician or your kids’ pediatrician to print out information sheets.  I recommend the CDC website as a starting point as they have resources on many different topics and is easily searchable.  I also recommend that everyone take a CPR class.  Most libraries and community centers will have courses scheduled throughout the year.