Clark's Live Better Health Tips health literacy If you are reading this, you are well on your way!

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Who is responsible for monitoring your health? If you answered “I am”, then you answered correctly. Simple enough “word math” yet the actual performance of this responsibility is not always without barriers. Individual responsibility concerning daily care and maintenance of health is a right that should be exercised vigorously as you pursue your Happiness, Liberty, and hopefully long Life. While there are many factors that affect our health i.e., income, age, employment status, education level, and race, there is one that has more impact than all others, this factor is called “health literacy”. Simply stated, health literacy is the ability to access health information, understand that information, place a value on that information, and ultimately make a decision based on that information by accurately communicating ones’ needs. While this definition is quite a sentence-full, it is the largest predictor of how well we will monitor and guard our health. By reading this article today you have started, and for many others “are continuing”, your journey to health literacy. Why is it necessary to be so fully involved in how we access, understand, valuate, and communicate health information? Why, when we have the most technologically-advanced facilities and technically-proficient cadre of health professionals in the world? The answer is because there is still more to learn and we are each truly unique. We have to act as our own monitoring agency, information warehouse, and final arbiter of how we will treat ourselves and be treated. Taking care of one’s health, avoiding disease, enhancing our lives through diet, exercise, hydration, sleep, and stress-coping habits is all a part of health literacy and through the exercise of that literacy, we can make greater contributions to our health and longevity.

Not too long ago, in the case of health monitoring, much of the care of a population was conducted by governing bodies and through popular decree. The inspection and quarantine of ships during the Black Death in Europe in 1348 may be the first recorded occurrence of using a health model to reduce the risk of disease and care for the health of a people. Europe continued the tradition of health surveillance in the 16th and 17th century with death certificates that were filed and accessed during pandemic outbreaks. The American colonies followed suit in the 18th century and passed a law mandating tavern keepers report infectious diseases among their patrons; namely, small pox, yellow fever, and cholera. By 1850, the US was publishing mortality statistics based on death registration and by 1901, all extant US states had applicable laws on the mandatory reporting of infectious diseases. This was followed, and expanded upon, by the establishment
of laws regarding health, drugs, cosmetics, nutrition, insurance, social security, and most recently, individual mandates. With all of this progress, it is still possible to get lost and lose one’s health quietly amid the hustle and flow of modern life. So how, when the rhetoric rises to a full-throated roar do we go about gaining or strengthening our health literacy?

The following are a few suggestions:
•  Continue coming to Clarks for health information, companionship, the sense of a shared ambition, and community activism
•  Ask questions, listen, and ask more questions until you are satisfied. To quote a famous song, “Don’t stop till you get enough”.
•  Respect what is known and what is unknown. So much is being learned all over the world about health and living longer lives that we should be open to learning and trying new things.

Ultimately, exercise, hydration, proper diet in concert with supplementation as needed, and a desire to take daily stock of our health is how we actually achieve the goal of a sound body that lasts a lifetime. It is important to remember that health is a commodity. A commodity that can be traded for the comfort of sedentarism, the excitement of decadence, or the bliss of nescience. Or, and if you are still reading this you agree, can be cared for and afford you a richer longer life.

As always, have a health-filled day!