In our last blog, we shared what health literacy is and why it matters. To recap, health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate decisions regarding one’s health. Health literacy is important because it empowers people to make informed decisions regarding their health, becoming their own health advocates. In a country with a lacking health care system, being health literate could mean the difference between health and sickness or even life and death.
There are many factors that contribute to health illiteracy. Poverty is the overarching cause of health illiteracy in developing countries. Countries stricken with poverty are not able to provide an adequate health care system and education system.
A lack of medical facilities and providers in Haiti means that people will not learn good health practices. These practices help to prevent the spread of infection and disease. Without it, they will not learn about appropriate treatment for them.
A lack of schools also affects health literacy. According to UNESCO, the illiteracy rate in Haiti is 39%, and we believe the health illiteracy rate to be even higher. When children do not attend school, there is a missed opportunity to teach them healthy and hygienic habits from a young age that can improve their health throughout their lives.
Without good health care and education systems, people cannot learn about ways to prevent illness and disease and ways to treat them. Without access or exposure to information about healthy practices and lifestyles, illness and disease will continue to spread.
Health literacy helps people recognize practices or situations that may negatively impact their health. In Haiti, sewage treatment and disposal are severely lacking, polluting water and causing many people to get sick. With increased health literacy, Haitians can learn that human and animal waste cause water contamination that leads to sickness, and they can make changes to their sanitation practices, preventing the spread of diseases like cholera. Improving health literacy can also improve hygiene practices. A person can learn how washing their hands with soap and water can lessen the chance of spreading bacteria that can make people sick, and they begin to practice better hygiene.
Health literacy means people can learn how to minimize health risks in their daily lives. In tropical Haiti, a person that learns how some diseases are spread by mosquitos and then starts using a mosquito net to lower the risk of getting bit is reducing the spread of diseases like malaria, dengue, and zika. Health literacy can mean a person learns that vaccinations can help protect them from diseases such as influenza, diphtheria, and rabies, and they choose to get a vaccine.
Health literacy also helps people know how to respond effectively to an illness. In order for a person to seek medicine or treatment, they first have to learn it exists. A person who knows good body functions and good health is able to more quickly identify when something is wrong and take appropriate action to get treatment. Health literacy is key to communicating with medical professionals in order to receive adequate treatment and understand and follow medical instructions that help reduce the spread of diseases.
The Community Health Workers program is a great example of health education that is improving health literacy in Thomazeau, Haiti. The job of CHWs is to educate people on health matters. They education on things such as HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning, nutrition during pregnancy, and breastfeeding support after birth until 12 months postpartum, helping them gain skills for good health and empowering them to be their own health advocates.
The Maternal Health Program is also increasing health literacy among mothers in Thomazeau. Mothers that get maternal care at LiveBeyond learn many new skills that will improve their and their baby’s health as they receive care. Women and babies receive meals and learn about proper nutrition during pregnancy and good nutrition for their babies. They are also educated on simple steps they can take to reduce the risk of their babies getting sick. Practices such as not co-sleeping with their babies and keeping babies off the ground and away from cooking fires greatly decrease harm and sickness to babies.
The LiveBeyond School is improving the health literacy of its students. Students at the LiveBeyond school are receiving a wonderful education as well as medical checkups. From a young age, the students learn healthy sanitation practices and good nutrition that help reduce the spread of disease. The healthy habits students learn when they are young will help them throughout their entire lives.
Think you would like to help make a difference? LiveBeyond has many ways you can get involved!
– To help Haitian medical professionals continue their education and improve their skills, LiveBeyond organizes medical trainings. Through partnerships with medical providers & universities in the U.S., LiveBeyond is helping improve the quality of health care in Haiti. If you are a medical professional and want to partner with LiveBeyond, you can let us know here.
– Share this article with your friends and family by clicking the social media buttons below! You can also sign up for our newsletter here so we can keep you updated about how we’re making an impact around the world.
– Join LiveBeyond in praying for the people of Haiti. Pray that the health care system in Haiti would be able to offer its people quality health care. Ask the Lord to help us end the spread of preventable diseases in Haiti. Pray also for more LiveBeyond partnerships that will help train more Haitian medical providers. Pray that the people of Haiti would have access to excellent medical care.
– You can also become a financial partner. By donating to any of our programs, you are joining us in improving the health and quality of life of Haitians. You can donate to the Community Health Workers program and help spread health education. You can donate to the Maternal Health program and help provide medical care and nutrition to mothers and babies. You can also donate to the LiveBeyond School and help children get a quality education and learn about healthy habits.
Whatever way you choose to get involved, you will be making a difference.
Health literacy and good health go hand in hand. In Haiti, poor health literacy often means the continued spread of disease because people simply do not know healthy habits. It also means that people do not receive appropriate medical treatment. LiveBeyond will continue working to improve the health and well-being of the people of Haiti. We will continue to work with our partners to provide nutrition, medical care, and education that empowers Haitians with the knowledge and skills to improve their lives. We hope that you will continue to pray and work with us for the good of the people of Haiti. Jeremiah 29:7, “But seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you.”
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.