Communications and Health Literacy

J0399551Related to yesterday’s observations regarding risk management, a key component of risk management is communications.  The appropriate communication not only of risk, but of proper use, are essential.  It is food for thought for the communications companies that provide support to pharmaceutical products. 

Product marketing is more these days, than just being experienced at launching a drug – it is about crisis, it is about regulatory preparation and it is about a track record in providing support services related to the proper use of medication and the management of risk in order to maximize benefit.

I remember once hearing a story described at an FDA Advisory Committee meeting of a mother who read instructions on a medication and understood the word "oral" to mean that the medication should be applied to the ear.  While the ear may not have been harmed, the child could not benefit from a medication he was supposed to swallow if it was applied to his ear.  This mother suffered a lack of health literacy.

Today’s Washington Post has a small article on a recent survey that demonstrated only an intermediate health literacy standing in the United States.  The most glaring part of the report was the finding that fewer than 1 in 6 adults are well equipped to understand health information properly.  The report was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

There is a lot of work being done on health literacy in the public and private sector and by industry.  Harvard University has an entire site on health literacy studies, so has NIH, and so has Pfizer

It would certainly be worthwhile for the communications firms charged with devising methods of product promotion took some of this work to heart in helping to fashion better and more expansive communications tools for the benefit of those seeking to convey information on the use and risk of medicine.  That would involve knowing intimately this data and understanding the implications of various reading levels and how the data from studies such as this impacts marketing and safety. 

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