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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2018 Nov 26. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001660. [Epub ahead of print]

Health Equity Demands Health Literacy: Ethics in the Pediatric Emergency Department.

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From the Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai Beth Israel; and Department of Emergency Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY.


The ability of the patient or the parent, in pediatrics, to read, understand, and act upon health information is termed health literacy. Health literacy has been shown to be of primary importance when determining a patient's ability to achieve optimal health. As physicians, we often fail to recognize the enormous obstacles facing our patients. In the pediatric emergency department (PED), communication is complicated. Physicians must be able to effectively relay information to the patient's caregiver while still not forgetting to provide developmentally appropriate instructions to the child. Individuals who do not have a good understanding of what is needed to properly care for themselves or their children are at a disadvantage, and it is therefore the responsibility of the pediatric provider to do all they can to identify gaps in health literacy. As providers, we need to always be questioning as to whether we properly conveyed the information to our patients. Teaching which results in good understanding is the ultimate goal when treating and releasing our patients in the pediatric emergency department. Matching the method of delivery of information and education to the family's health literacy will help the care team deliver effective information so that it is applied at home hopefully preventing a rapid revisit.

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