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Physical Activity and Cancer

Exercise is defined as any movement that uses the muscles and requires more energy than resting.  Research continues to prove that higher levels of exercise are linked to lower risks of several cancers.  Research also shows that in addition to chemotherapy and radiation, an exercise program during and after cancer care can help lessen side effects and decrease the chance side effects will come back.  Exercise during cancer treatments has also been shown to lower anxiety, decrease depression, improve mood, improve blood counts and lower fatigue and pain. Kim Berndt, Occupational Therapist with Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “Weight gain and fatigue are the most common side effects cancer patients will see when going through treatment. Exercise has proven to be the only thing that helps with these concerns.”

Cancer rehabilitation programs can help people who have or will have surgery, people who have or will have chemotherapy, people who have or will have radiation, and people receiving hormonal or biological therapy.  “We can help treat, reduce, eliminate, and prevent dysfunction,” adds Berndt. “An exercise program can help eliminate pain, reduce fatigue, restore join mobility, restore tissue flexibility, restore strength, and safely reintroduce the body to activities.” Exercise also helps the cancer patient by lowering hormone levels (insulin and estrogen) that have been linked to forms of breast and colon cancers, reduces obesity and its harmful effects, reduces inflammation, improves immune system, alters metabolism of bile acids, and reduces digestion time which lowers colon cancer risk. “Cancer survivors who exercise lose weight, improve quality of life and reduce their recurrence risk,” states Berndt.

A cancer rehabilitation program will include cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching.  Walking programs have proven to be very successful for cancer rehabilitation. “A walking program has the potential to decrease a person’s risk of cancer coming back by 40 to 50 percent,” adds Berndt.  “It can also minimize fatigue, help maintain weight, bone and muscle mass, and maximize activity tolerance.”  Strength and stretching exercises also help reduce weakness, fight muscle loss, improve functional movement, restore range of motion, improve posture and reduce stress.

Erin Lamers, Physical Therapist at Aurora Health Care Oshkosh explains, “Our cancer rehabilitation program is all encompassing.  We not only perform physical exercise with the patient, but mental and cognitive exercises are incorporated as well.”  Lamers adds, “Therapy should be just as vital as chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  People leave therapy feeling better, more energized, and more in control of their lives.”

Both therapists recommend people always check with their doctor before starting any type of exercise program. “Our program is individualized to the patient’s specific needs and includes one-on-one care,” states Berndt.  “It’s never too late to begin an exercise for cancer rehabilitation program.  Patients should speak with their physician and request a referral for therapy services.”  For more information, contact the Aurora Physical Therapy department at 920.456.7100.

December Dangers: Toy Safety!

December is safe toys and safe gifts awareness month.  Choosing safe toys and gifts for the children and your life can be a difficult task, as there are so many to choose from. Toys are supposed to be fun, however every year thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Choking is particularly a large risk for children under the age of three, as they tend to put objects in their mouth.

The United States Consumer and Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys.  Any toy that is made in – or imported to – the United States must comply with CPSC standards.  Manufacturers must also follow certain guidelines for toys within specific age groups; however still the most important thing parents can do is supervise play.

KidsHealth.org has some general guidelines to keep in mind while shopping for toys this holiday season:
  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paint should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Be cautious of old toys and those handed down from friends and family members.  They may have sentimental value, but may not meet the current standards for health and safety. 

When buying toys for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, keep the following in mind: toys should be large enough so they can’t be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe; avoid marbles, coins, balls and games that are 1.75 inches or less; battery operated toys should have battery cases with secure screws; make sure toys are strong enough to withstand chewing; riding toys should include safety harnesses and straps and be secure enough to prevent tipping; and check stuffed animals for loose parts or sharp edges.

If you are purchasing gifts for a grade schooler, consider the following recommendations: encourage your children to wear helmets and other safety gear like hand, wrist and shin guards when using bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates; nets should be well constructed so they don’t become strangulation hazards; toy darts or arrows should have suction cups at the ends, not hard points; toy guns should not look like real weapons; and electric toys should be labeled UL to signify they have met safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories.

Dangerous objects such as fireworks, matches, sharp scissors and balloons should not be given to a child to use as a toy.

Keeping toys safe at home is also very important.  Parents should consider teaching children how to put toys away after they are finished using them, parents should examine the toys regularly for broken parts, throw away broken toys or repair them immediately, and store outdoor toys in a location where they are safe from rain or snow to avoid rust developing on the toy.

Consumers can check the CPSC website for up-to-date information about toy recalls or call the hotline to report a toy you believe is unsafe at 1-800-638-CPSC.  Keep your kids safe this holiday season by choosing toys that are healthy and safe.

Integrative Medicine: Mind, Body & Soul

Integrative medicine is a healing-based medical practice that takes into account all aspects of a person, putting the patient at the center of the equation and addressing all physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences affecting health. Complimentary medicine has a substantial presence in the United States health care system. In 1991, Congress established the Office of Alternative Medicine within the National Institutes of Health to encourage scientific research in the field. In the United States, approximately 38 percent of adults and approximately 12 percent of children are using some form of complimentary or alternative medicine.

Functional or integrative medicine is one that asks the vital questions, “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?”  Traditional medicine typically asks, “What drug matches up with this disease.”  Integrative medicine seeks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, ultimately revealing why a set of symptoms occurs in the first place.  Integrative medicine believes each patient is unique and the treatment prescribed also reflects the individual patient.

Aurora Health Care has an Integrative Medicine Center for Wellbeing located at 700 Parkridge Lane, North Fond du Lac.  Dr. Tamara Lyday, provides services at the Center and provides treatments for the following conditions:
  • Bioidentical hormones
  • Acupuncture
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Thyroid issues
  • Low energy
  • Menopause
  • Testosterone
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Fertility
  • Diet
  • Weight Loss
  • Mold Detox
  • Chronic Lyme Disease
  • Biotoxin Illness
  • Whole family health care
Dr. Lyday states, “I wish to help individuals consciously pursue the best life possible through achievement of balance in all areas of life including the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual aspects of the human experience.”

Dr. Lyday also provides well family visits, acute visits, dermatological procedures, joint injections, nail removal, and osteopathic manipulations.

For more information on Aurora’s Integrative Medicine Center for Wellbeing, call 920-926-7800.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a service provided to a patient at any stage of a serious illness and can be concurrent with curative treatments.  It is not the same thing as hospice or comfort care.  However, it is specialized, integrated medical care for people with serious or chronic illness that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of the disease process and treatment options. “Palliative Care is not about the End of Life, but rather enhancing the life that you have left,” states Jennifer Davis, Nurse Practitioner with the Palliative Care program at Aurora Health Care Oshkosh.

The Aurora Health Care Oshkosh Palliative Care team is a group of doctors, a nurse practitioner, social worker, and chaplain who provide an additional layer of support with the goal of improving quality of life for both the patient and the family.  This team works closely with the health care team to relieve pain and other distressing symptoms, address and provide social and spiritual concerns, help educate patients for better understanding of the management and prognosis of the illness, improve communication between doctors and family members, and discuss goals of care to ensure care is in line with their wishes.

The Palliative Care team may also suggest a family conference to review the medical situation, discuss treatment options, and clarify the patient’s goals. Davis states, “Palliative Care brings opportunities for improving the quality of life, physically, emotionally and spiritually, for you and your loved ones.” A family conference can help the patient and the family understand the medical you, address family concerns, describe decisions that need to be made and outline a plan. This conference allows patients and families to talk about what to expect and how to prepare for the future.

How do a patient and their family know if they need Palliative Care?  Many people living with illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure, among others have emotional distress and physical symptoms related to their diseases, possibly from the medical treatments they are receiving.  Palliative Care may be appropriate if the patient is experiencing the following:
  • Suffering from pain or other symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, anxiety, or depression due to their serious illness.
  • Experiencing physical or emotional pain that is not under control.
  • Needing help understanding the situation, options and determining the next steps and coordinating care.
  • Requiring frequent trips to the hospital or emergency room for the same condition.
Davis adds, “I am very proud to be working for an organization that understands that Palliative Care is a necessity in the realm of caring for the whole person.  We have a medical system that is excellent in keeping people alive decades longer with many chronic and serious illness diagnoses.  It is the responsibility of the Palliative Care team to ensure that the additional time given aligns with the goals and desires of each patient, while also improving their quality of life.”

Other considerations for Palliative Care include those with two of more admissions for the same problem over the last months, poorly defined or unachievable goals, complex family dynamics, severe spiritual or psychosocial distress, or challenging care decisions.

For more information on the Aurora’s Palliative Care program, call 920-456-6000.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has increased to nearly 5.4 million, including over 200,000 under the age of 65. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 16 million people will have the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. The Association also reports that the reported cost of the disease in 2015 is $226 billion and that nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Scientists have characterized risk factors that increase the onset of Alzheimer’s.  They are age, family history, and heredity – none of these things can be changed, however, there is emerging evidence that other factors may be the cause as well, that we can change. Research is starting to show that general lifestyle and wellness choices, and effective management of other health conditions, also have influence on developing the disease. The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, as nearly one in three people age 85 or older has the disease.  Someone who has a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer’s is more likely to develop the disease as well.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are two types of genes (heredity) that play a role in affecting a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s – risk genes and deterministic genes.  Risk genes increase likelihood of developing a disease, but do not guarantee it will happen. Scientists state that 20 to 25 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are due to this gene.  Deterministic genes directly cause the disease, guaranteeing that if you have the gene, you will develop the disease. Scientists claim that less than 5 percent of cases are caused by this gene.

There is a strong link between head injuries and future risk of Alzheimer’s as well, particularly when head trauma occurs repeatedly or involves a loss of consciousness. Research also supports the link between brain health and heart health in proving the brain is nourished by the heart. Science tells us that every heartbeat pumps 20-25 percent of your blood to your head, and brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen the blood carries.  Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia increase when a person develops conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

The Alzheimer’s Association encourages everyone to know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s, as early detection is important.  The 10 warning signs are:
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.  Currently, there is no cure, but treatments are available. Current treatment does not stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, but it can temporarily slow down the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those suffering and their caregivers. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, consider using the 24/7 Alzheimer’s hotline at 1-800-272-3900 or for additional resources, visiting their website at www.alz.org.

Smoking and Your Health: Quit Today!

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event. Encourage someone you know to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk. “Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age,” says Christie Smiskey, Nurse Practitioner with Aurora Health Care Oshkosh. “Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help such as counseling or medications. Receiving professional help can double or triple the chances of quitting successfully long-term.”

Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body and some of those effects are immediate.  Your brain becomes addicted; nicotine from cigarettes is as addictive as heroin and is hard to outdo because it changes your brain. When your brain stops getting the nicotine it has become addicted to, you develop withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiousness, and strong cravings.  Hearing loss may also occur when you smoke. Smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the inner ear which can result in permanent damage and mild to moderate hearing loss. Smoking causes changes to the eyes that can harm your eyesight, particularly for night vision.  It also increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Smokers develop many oral health problems like mouth sores, ulcers and gum disease. Smokers also have an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat. Smoking causes your skin to be dry and lose elasticity, a smoker’s skin tone may also become dull and grayish. Smoking raises your blood pressure, puts additional stress on your heart, and increases the risk of heart disease.  Smoking makes your blood become thick and sticky which causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels that increases risk for strokes and heart attacks.  Smoking can have many negative effects on a person’s lungs including inflammation in the small airways and tissues, chronic cough with mucus, emphysema, and increased risk of colds and respiratory infections.

The first couple of days without cigarettes can be difficult. Be sure to tell your friends and family that you have decided to quit and ask them for support. Get the support your need by finding a quit program to help you such as the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) which offers free, confidential coaching and information about how to quit. Avoid smoking triggers such as people, places and things that trigger your urge to smoke. Throw away cigarettes, lighters and ash trays, drink water, hang out with non-smokers, go to places where smoking is not allowed, get plenty of sleep, and eat healthy. Reward yourself for every hour you are smoke-free!

Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.  In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood stream drops to normal. Within three months, your circulation and lung function improves, and after nine months, you will cough less and breather easier.  After one year, your risk of coronary artery disease is cut in half. In five years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half.  After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.

Not only will you have more time to spend with your family, catch up on work and find a hobby, you won’t have to worry about when and where you can smoke, food will taste better, and you will have more money to spend! The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Wisconsin is $8.11. Tobacco use costs the United States approximately $193 billion annually. This figure includes about $97 billion from loss of productivity due to premature death and $96 billion in smoking related health care costs.

It takes determination and commitment to stay smoke-free.  Quitting is a process and happens one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. 

Embracing Change and New Beginnings

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”  Sometimes change brings sadness and happiness all mixed together, as what is happening with my emotions right now as I leave the Y and begin a new career with Aurora Health Care as their Foundation Development Coordinator in Oshkosh and Green Bay.

In 2012, I began my role as Community Health and Wellness Director at the Oshkosh YMCA. It was my job to inform the Oshkosh community on all the many ways we can live a happy and healthy life in our community.  I called it “Bringing the YMCA to you”.  I hope every week you felt inspired by my column and felt that I brought the pillars of healthy learning to your home and family.  Many topics were discussed in the last five years such as exercise, nutrition, active aging, children and exercise, and employee wellness to name a few.  I hope I offered you information that was new and exciting and I always loved to hear how these topics made a difference in people’s lives.

The wonderful thing about working in a community like Oshkosh is being able to collaborate with other organizations.  I am going to be able to keep brining Healthy Oshkosh to our community through a continuing partnership with Aurora Health Care and Oshkosh YMCA.  The definition of collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” The Oshkosh YMCA and Aurora Health Care work hard to continuously collaborate with other businesses and agencies in the community to constantly create and produce unique and helpful programs.  Both organizations are true leaders in the community when it comes to sharing their resources to promote healthy living.

So, I am happy to say that Healthy Oshkosh will continue to be in your Sunday morning newspaper! It just may have a slightly different look though.  I plan to continue to promote all the wonderful things happening at the Y, and around the community which improve health and well-being, but will also be able to connect with health care professionals at Aurora to add some depth and local research that directly apply to our medical community.  I hope this will add to the excitement of services that are offered through the work of Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh.

So, for now, I sign off as Molly from the Y, and sign on as Molly from Aurora. I ask that you take this journey with me and I encourage you to not be afraid of change, as we might lose something good, but find something better.  I hope you continue to find Healthy Oshkosh a valuable part of your week.

Turkey Trot Time!

The 10th Annual Festival Foods Turkey Trot will take place on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017. The Turkey Trot offers two events – a five mile run and a two mile walk – to accommodate participants of all ages and abilities. Attendees enjoy upbeat music, high quality long-sleeved t-shirts and free Festival Foods pumpkin pies at the finish line that they can take home and enjoy with their family.

The event also features a Dog Jog, in which four-legged family members are allowed to participate. The Dog Jog will start at the back of the 2-mile event and will follow the 2-mile route. No dogs are allowed on the 5-mile route. Please only bring dogs that are well-behaved and used to being around other dogs and people. The dog should be kept on a leash that is shorter than six feet, and no retractable leashes, which may be hazardous in a crowd. New this year, dogs must be registered with an accompanying adult or child. The cost to register a dog is $5, however your furry family member will receive a Turkey Trot bandana and dog treat coupon.

Registration is now open and available by visiting www.festivalfoodsturkeytrot.com. Early bird registration is going on now through October 31 for $20 per adult participant and $15 per child under the age of 18.  Regular registration begins on November 1 through November 20 for $25 per adult and $20 per child.  Race day registration on November 22 and 23 is $30 per adult and $25 per child. T-shirt sizes can only be guaranteed for those registered on or before November 19.

Shirts and bibs can be picked up at the Oshkosh Arena, 1212 S. Main Street, between 2-6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22 and beginning at 6:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The Trot starts promptly at 8:00 a.m. and there are two different start lines. Be sure you are in the correct area to ensure you are on the right course. The 2-mile walk begins at the corner of Main Street and 14th Ave and the 5-mile run begins at the corner of Main Street and 11th Ave. Please note: these are new routes for the Oshkosh Turkey Trot. Detailed maps can be found on the Turkey Trot website. 

The Turkey Trot benefits the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA in communities Festival Foods serves. Both organizations provide volunteers in return for monetary proceeds. Volunteer positions are available at the Oshkosh Arena on Wednesday before the race from 2-6 p.m. and on Thursday morning before the race from 6:00-8:30 a.m. Volunteers are also needed during the race along the route and also at the water station across in Menomonee Park. To register for a volunteer position, people can log on to www.festivalfoodsturkeytrot.com and click on “Volunteer” under the Oshkosh location. In the past seven years, the Turkey Trot has donated more than $1,930,000 to participating communities.

Here are the top 10 reasons everyone should participate in the 2017 Festival Foods Turkey Trot:
  1. It’s Fun!
  2. You get to support two amazing charities in Oshkosh – the Oshkosh Boys & Girls Club and the Oshkosh Community YMCA!
  3. You receive a free Turkey Trot t-shirt for volunteering or participating!
  4. You receive a free Pumpkin Pie for participating in the 2-mile or 5-mile event!
  5. Even your dog can get some exercise in the “Dog Jog”!
  6. Start your day off right – with exercise! A 150 pound person will burn approximately 562 calories by running the 5-mile run and a 150 pound person will burn approximately 159 calories walking 3.0 miles per hour during the 2-mile walk.
  7. Relieve holiday stress!
  8. Celebrate your racing accomplishments with the most delicious post-race meal ever!
  9. Start a new, healthy family tradition!
  10. Give back to your community!
If you have questions specific to how you can get involved in Oshkosh, contact local race director, Molly Yatso-Butz at mmyatso@yahoo.com or Boys & Girls Club Charity Representative, Katie Huebner at katieh@bgcosh.org.

National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The campaign was founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and unites communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.

According to PACER, In the past, bullying had been viewed as “a childhood rite of passage” that “made kids tougher”, but bullying can have long term effects on children including low self-esteem, increased anxiety, and depression.

There are warning signs parents should be aware of if their child is being bullied, however, not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Stopbullying.gov suggests parents look for these signs that may point to bullying:
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behavior such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
It’s also important to recognize if your child is the bully. Warning signs that your child may be bulling others are:
  • Getting into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation and popularity
A study done in 2012 from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety reported that an adult was notified in less than half (40 percent) of bullying incidents. There are many reasons kids don’t tell adults such as:
  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless and kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again
  • Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied him
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience and kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them
  • Kids who are bullied already feel socially isolated and feel like no one cares or could understand
  • Kids may fear being rejected by their peers
Bullying is a significant problem nationwide. Schools, teachers, and parents can play a critical role in creating an environment where bullying is not tolerated. 

What Is Health Literacy?

October is Health Literacy month, a great time for organizations to promote the importance of understandable health information. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. David Ruby, Medical Librarian with Aurora Health Care says, “Part of health literacy is being able to understand the meaning of the advice given and understanding what the doctor, nurse, medical website or text is telling you.” Research by the National Patient Safety Foundation shows that most people need help understanding health care information, regardless of reading level, and prefer information that is easy to read and understand.

The National Center for Education Statistics reveals the health of 90 million people in the U.S. may be at risk because of the difficulty some patients experience in understanding and acting upon health information. The American Medical Association says that literacy skills are a stronger predictor of health status than age, income, employment status, education level, or racial/ethnic group. It is estimated that one in five Americans reads at the fifth grade level or below, and the average American reads at an eighth or ninth grade level. Most health care literature is written at a tenth grade level. “It is very important for consumers to understand what they are hearing or reading,” states Ruby. “Making sure our patients have the proper information is a valuable resource. The right amount of information is critical; we don’t want them to have too much or too little, and we want them to have the right amount of technical details. Librarians can connect them with that information.” Research does suggest that people with low literacy levels are more likely to make medication and treatment errors, are less likely to comply with treatments, are less likely to be able to negotiate with the health care system, and are at higher risk for hospitalization. 

“Health literacy helps patients ask the right questions, so they are prepared and know what to expect from their appointments,” explains Ruby. “When people understand their medical condition, they can ask appropriate questions regarding medications and treatments. They can utilize quality resources to research conditions or medications, and go to the physician informed about relevant symptoms they may be experiencing and treatment options available.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to have chronic conditions and are less able to manage them effectively.  It is estimated that the communication disconnect of health information between health care providers and consumers costs between $106-$238 billion per year.

Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh offers community members an opportunity to become more health literate. “Finding Reliable Health Information” is a class offered to anyone who is interested in learning more about surfing the Internet for health information. “Using the Internet to find reliable health information can be overwhelming,” states Ruby. “Knowing which sites are reliable and credible is very important. Patients need to be aware of sites that are biased, trying to sell them something, are outdated, or that make claims that are not supported by an authority or simply wrong.” Ruby states that a person can call 920-456-7039 to schedule this free class any time.

Medical libraries, such as the one at Aurora Health Care, can be great resources for patients to improve their health literacy. “The library is a usable patient resource,” states Ruby. “It can demystify questions about medical diagnosis, tests, and pharmaceuticals. It can assist in basic health terminology and can make a diagnosis less scary for the patient or their family.”
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