Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week in Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK –According to the American Medical Association, people's ability to understand instructions on brochures and prescription drug bottles is a better predictor of their health outcomes than their race, age, income or education level.

Health literacy includes the ability to accurately read appointment slips, a doctor's directions and consent forms. It encompasses the ability to negotiate the often complex health care systems that Americans must deal with when they get sick. Letters from insurance companies and multi-page medical bills require a level of reading comprehension that is beyond many people.

Medical experts estimate that more than two-thirds of our elderly population cannot adequately understand health related material they encounter. Half of the U.S. population is at risk of misunderstanding medical instructions. That puts them at much greater risk of ending up in the emergency room and incurring significantly higher medical costs.

With this in mind, a wide ranging group of health professionals in the state have joined to improve the overall health literacy of Arkansas residents. The Partnership for Health Literacy in Arkansas began meeting about a year ago. Participants include the state Health Department, the Cooperative Extension Service, Literacy Councils, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the state Department of Human Services. Arkansas Children's Hospital is helping write a curriculum with a health literacy component for health classes taught in public schools.

Of course a major goal is to improve the literacy skills of poorly educated Arkansans. The need for reading skills goes beyond being able to take medicines as prescribed by doctor. It also includes living skills such as being able to read nutrition labels on grocery products to avoid foods with a lot of sodium, which is important for people who have to control high blood pressure.

Another goal of the partnership is to train medical providers so that they are more aware of the risks involved in treating someone lacking literacy skills.

Financial Help for Crime Victims

The Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board approved $260,000 in payments to 138 victims of crime in August. These reparations will help pay for medical bills, lost wages, mental health counseling and funeral expenses.

In July the Board awarded $286,000 in reparations to 134 crime victims. The money comes from fines collected from convicted criminals and from court costs and fees. Last year the Board approved a total of $3.8 million to 1,738 crime victims.

Adoption Services Receives Grant

The state will receive a grant of $1.3 million in recognition of its efforts to increase the frequency of adoptions for children in foster homes. The state Division of Children and Family Services administers foster care and adoption services.

Last year 622 children in the foster care system were adopted. That marks a significant increase over 2008, when 466 foster children were adopted.

The number of children in foster care in Arkansas fluctuates. At this time last year there were 4,781 children in the state's foster care system. Of those, 24 percent were from two to five years old.

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