Impact patient safety through health literacy campaign

Impact patient safety through health literacy campaign
Providing quality patient care goes to the core of what physician assistants (PAs) do. Making sure that patients understand basic health care information helps PAs provide the most efficient and effective care at all times, and gives patients a sense of responsibility for their own well-being.

In a perfect world, the patient and the PA will speak the same language – at least in the provider's office. However, studies have shown that many patients do not understand basic health care instructions for a variety of reasons.

For the next three years, PAs will be working to help patients understand basic health care instructions through a variety of health literacy projects. In the first year, PAs will be working with elementary school children around the country in an effort to promote reading skills as a way to improve health literacy skills.


Health literacy refers to a patient's ability to understand common health care information like prescription instructions, test results, insurance forms, or directions for patient care. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's program Healthy People 2010, an individual is considered to be "health literate" when he or she possesses the skills to understand information and services and uses these skills to make appropriate decisions about health care.

According to a report from the National Institutes of Health, " these skills and strategies are absent in more than half of the U.S. population. This fact is more disturbing when one considers that these are the very skills and strategies that often lead to longer life, improved quality of life, reduction of both chronic disease and health disparities, as well as cost savings."

Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications.

During the week of Oct. 6-12, PAs around the United States, will celebrate National Physician Assistant Week by participating in health literacy projects. The members of the South Dakota Student American Academy of Physician Assistants will continue to participate in Health Literacy Programs in the local community during 2007.

The University of South Dakota Chapter of SAAAPA will have a information booth set up in the dormitories at various times throughout National PA Week, where we will be handing out pamphlets and visiting with University of South Dakota students who may be interested in the Physician Assistant Program or those wanting more information about what a physician assistant is.

For more information about The University of South Dakota Physician Assistant Program, visit http://www.usd.edu/med/pa/. For more information about the PA profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants Web page at www.aapa.org.

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