October is Health Literacy Month, and a good time to review the idea of the Universal Precautions approach. Universal Precautions is a concept in medicine aimed at preventing the transmission of bloodborne infections. The idea is to assume infection could be present and take the needed precautions at all times. These steps are incorporated into the objectives of a program and made a part of training and implementation of policies designed to prevent the inadvertent transmission of infection. Likewise, health literacy can be approached from a universal precautions standpoint. Experts recommend assuming that everyone may have difficulty understanding medical information and instructions from their healthcare provider. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recommends a Universal Precautions approach, and provides a free Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit to help primary care providers increase patient understanding of health information.
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