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Registered Dietitians Can Do Much to Help Educate Americans and Eliminate Health Disparities in U.S., Says Former Surgeon General
Date:2/11/2009

Type 2 diabetes, this is an excellent example of what is wrong with our health-care system, when only 5 percent of our health-care dollar is spent on prevention and 95 percent is spent on fixing things after they are broken."

Moritsugu called for the country to develop a "patient-centric" model of health care based on "a stable and balanced triangle" of research, accessible practice and responsible policy. However, he said, "a widespread problem is seriously inhibiting our progress." That problem is low health literacy, which he defined as "the ability of an individual to access, understand and use health-related information and services to make sound, thoughtful health decisions. Indisputably, low health literacy contributes to disparities and impacts health," he said.

"People with low health literacy are less likely to know how to navigate the health-care system, understand basic health information or get preventive health-care services. They are more likely to use expensive emergency care services and to be hospitalized more often and for longer periods of time," Moritsugu said, noting nearly nine in 10 American adults "lack the skills needed to take care of their own health or know how to prevent disease."

Language and cultural barriers "add another layer of complexity," Moritsugu said. "Every day, public health care professionals are witnessing the health literacy gap. This gap is the chasm of knowledge between what professionals know and what patients understand. And the problem is bigger than many of us perceive. We need to build bridges between what we as health professionals know and what our patients understand."

Moritsugu said it is the responsibility of health professionals such as registered dietitians "to communicate in such a way that those we serve can hear, understand, embrace and ultimately put into action, the knowledge, the science, the evidence, the counsel that we provide the
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SOURCE American Dietetic Association
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