On more than one occasion I’ve used this space to gush about the joy and benefits of reading. I’ve talked about the fact I read anytime and anyplace. I read for pleasure, for personal development, and for career advancement. I read magazines, books, and online content. I read billboards, product boxes, signs, license plates, stationary things and moving things, posters, notices.
But That’s me. I recognize not everyone shares my enthusiasm or appreciates the value of this activity. Maybe all that will change with information recently made public about an unexpected benefit of reading. Items in the February 21 issue of both the Edmonton Journal and the National Post make the link between reading and health.
Sometimes what we’re unwilling to do for pleasure becomes easier when we know it is ?good for us.? We walk because it makes us healthier, not because of the sights and sounds. We eat salads instead of cookies because they offer essential nutrients, not because we suddenly hate chocolate. We go to the doctor for the annual checkup because It’s wise to do so, not because we love the stirrups or the snap of the rubber gloves. Perhaps more of us will begin daily reading because it will keep us healthier longer.
A 2003 Stats Canada report on adult literacy and life skills concluded that ?sixty percent of Canadians and eighty-eight percent of senior citizens lack the reading, numeracy and analytical skills to deal with their health.?
According to the article, health literacy is more than merely being able to read pill bottle or nutritional labels. It includes the ability to make informed decisions based on seemingly conflicting information obtained from doctors, books, and the Internet.
Dr. Paul Cappon, president of the Canadian Council on Learning, says ?you need prose literacy, you need numeracy skills and you need to use them simultaneously.? The study concludes that reading every day on any topic, and not education levels, is the ?single strongest effect? on the ability to acquire and process health information.
Health literacy has the most potential to positively impact diabetes and, to a lesser degree, hypertension rates. With diabetes approaching epidemic rates this is huge. In both cases, individual health choices regarding diet, fitness, and lifestyle can make a huge difference. If you can’t comprehend what you read or don’t read it in the first place, You’re at a disadvantage.
It’s hard to talk about health without talking cost. Any attempt to save health care dollars and the high cost of pain and suffering is welcome.
Most of us already know we need to be proactive advocates for our own health and that of our children and parents. We’ve all experienced difficulty understanding the need for more tests, assimilating a diagnosis, and implementing a treatment plan. A simple fix?reading something, anything, each day?with the potential to make us healthier makes sense, from where I sit.