Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
It has never been easier to find health and wellness information online. Yet much of the available information, particularly on social media platforms, is incomplete, not science-based or verified, and, in many instances, flat-out false.
For example, inaccurate health news may have influenced the 2016 Zika virus epidemic. A University of Wisconsin study found that misleading Zika information, such as abundant false claims that Zika was a hoax created to enrich vaccine manufacturers, had a greater reach on Facebook than reputable public health information. The Zika emergency could have ended sooner if people had better access to reliable information about what symptoms to look for and what to do.
Compounding the problem is the low health literacy rate in the United States, where an estimated 77 million adults have basic or below basic health literacy, according to a 2003 survey by the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
As a result, many Americans have trouble following prescription drug labels, understanding medical terms, or knowing how often to have a preventive screening such as a colonoscopy or mammography.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 12 percent of Americans are “well-informed, savvy users of health care,” well below the level of other nations where citizens also have access to technology.
Creating a health-literate workforce
Comprehensive wellness programs can help employees make sound decisions and can debunk myths related to good health. MIIA’s Well Aware program offers services and resources with the most up-to-date, scientific data. These services include lifestyle-change and health literacy programs that improve overall health and well-being.
After a successful pilot, one of MIIA’s newest online educational programs, Quizzify, is being rolled out in September. Quizzify is a fun and easy-to-use learning platform that provides trivia-style quizzes to help employees break down complex topics. The goal is to present accurate information regarding popular health myths and misconceptions. The quizzes reflect the latest research in health and health care, so employees can make smart and healthy decisions.
Al Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Quizzify, said those who use Quizzify often discover that the factual information would lead them to procure less medical care rather than more. He said this is not surprising, since the misinformation readily available online often leads to overuse of the health care system, not underuse.
Lewis said helping employees understand why they don’t always need to use medical services is part of the overall education program. Excessive medical screening can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which costs employers and employees time, money, energy and worry.
We know that employees want to make the best decisions for their own health and that of their families. Happier and healthier employees are more engaged and productive at work. They are also less likely to use employer-sponsored health insurance and spend less time outside the office on unnecessary health care visits.
The reality is that better-informed employees will make better choices. It’s a good idea for managers to check on what their health insurance provider offers for wellness and health care education programs for employees.
Enjoy your summer vacation, and be sure to wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming. Oh wait, that’s a myth, too!
Myths vs. facts: Test your health and wellness literacy
How many health “facts” do we assume are true just because we’ve heard them so many times, even if there isn’t research to back them up?
Test your knowledge by responding to the following statements:
See answers below.
Jayne Schmitz, MPH, is a MIIA Wellness Project Manager.