Merck Manuals announces its new health literacy campaign, Global Medical Knowledge 2020.
Last month, Merck Manuals (or MSD Manuals outside of the United States and Canada) announced the launch of a new global initiative to bring medical information to nearly 3 billion consumers and health professionals by 2020.
Credible health information for all
The program, called Global Medical Knowledge 2020 addresses the need for credible health information for all. A recent survey conducted for Merck by Harris Poll affirms the existence of a health information gap. The survey of more than 2,000 adults revealed that 4 in 10 Americans struggle when it comes to their level of health and medical knowledge. 1 in 3 indicate they are “trying to keep up,” and 6% report that they “barely know the basics.”
Nearly three-quarters of adults search for health information on the Internet, often looking for information about specific diseases or conditions, a doctor or other health professional, or treatments and medications. However, research indicates that searching for online health information is more likely to result in cyberchondria than useful information.
The health information landscape is constantly evolving in today's digital world, but many people still struggle to access and comprehend the information they need to make the right personal health decisions,
says Robert S. Porter, M.D., Merck Manuals Editor-in-Chief.
Other notable survey findings include:
- 21 percent of respondents believe the most significant barrier to increasing their health literacy is their inability to judge the quality of online medical information.
- More than half of Americans (55 percent) say they learn about medical symptoms and treatment options from the Internet rather than their doctor, despite credibility concerns.
Health literacy impacts overall health
Seventy-nine percent of Americans also believe that access to the same medical information as their physicians would help them to better understand their health. Health literacy—defined as a person’s ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information—is typically below the average literacy level of the general population. Research shows that individuals with low levels of health literacy are more likely to skip preventive health measures, such as screenings and immunizations. They are more likely to have chronic conditions and less able to manage them. They are also more likely to have poor health, use more expensive emergency services, and be hospitalized.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services,
9 in 10 American adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.
For this reason, making health information accessible is about more than putting it on a free website. Merck.com intends to bridge this gap in health literacy with a toggle function that allows users to select either the professional or consumer version of the manual. The two versions provide the same information, but each is tailored to the needs (which may be very different) of its specific audience.
With Global Medical Knowledge 2020, we're committed to providing consumers and health care professionals everywhere with quality, unbiased medical information they can easily understand and use on a daily basis.
Global Medical Knowledge 2020 will support Merck’s goals to increase medical knowledge by offering both consumer and professional information at MerkManuals.com at no cost. Merck’s goal is to have the content translated into multiple languages in a mobile app, with global availability by 2020.
Authored by 350 international independent medical experts, MerkManuals.com does not require registration. The company also doesn’t allow advertisements.
We believe that health information is a universal right, not a privilege, and that providing free access to quality medical information will enable more informed decisions, enhance relationships between patients and professionals and improve health care outcomes around the world,
Check out this video for more information about Merck Manual’s new project, and what health literacy can do around the world.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.