Clear communication from doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics is essential for patients to manage their health care effectively. But creating easily understood materials isn't simple. Many health workers don't realize when they're using technical terms, and many non-medical people have problems reading and understanding scientific and mathematical concepts. Fortunately, several web sites offer helpful advice about how to create patient-friendly educational print materials. Two of the most useful are the National ...

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Marc Henderson, a 63-year-old African-American airport executive, isn't afraid to ask his physician to do a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a screening test for prostate cancer. "I'd rather know early on so that it can be treated, rather than sit around in denial until it's too late," he said. "If it's going to help catch something, I have no problems with it." Henderson's views aren't unusual. For years, doctors ...

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He was a "frequent flyer" -- a patient with multiple health problems who gets admitted to the hospital repeatedly. It was usually because he hadn't taken his medicine correctly, if at all. When he left the hospital 10 days earlier, he told his physician that he wouldn't have problems filling his prescriptions, because he had Medicaid. But when he arrived at his local drug store, it wasn't so easy. "I was ...

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On a recent afternoon, Hansel Tookes stood on a sidewalk in downtown Miami, peering into a thicket of scraggly weeds. "I found a bunch over here," he said, edging toward an overpass. A small orange plastic cap came into sight, and next to it two slender insulin syringes, with the needles exposed. Scattered about were tiny plastic zipper bags -- evidence that the needles had been used to inject heroin ...

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Sometimes, the simplest tools in medicine are the ones that give us the most useful information. Take the humble blood pressure machine, for example. It's been around for years, and it's cheap, compared with a lot of other medical devices. It's simple to use, and it doesn't require a medical or a nursing degree to operate. But the numbers it reports are valuable in helping predict a person's risk of a ...

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People living along the Gulf of Mexico are still feeling the effect of the BP oil spill disaster, the largest oil catastrophe in history. To learn more about the spill's health effects, I spoke with Dr. Gina Solomon, an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Dr. Solomon was on the Louisiana ...

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Brenda Bryant learned she had breast cancer while she was sitting alone in her car in the parking lot of her grandson's day care center. It was early evening on a Friday two years ago, and her surgeon called to tell her the results of a biopsy. "He just gave me my results and that was it," says Bryant, who lives in Northern Virginia. "It was like there was ...

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At the age of 56, Jules Levin felt pretty invincible, despite being HIV positive. He went to the gym regularly and controlled his disease well by taking his antiretroviral medicines every day. Then he slipped one day while on vacation and broke his wrist. He underwent an operation to insert pins in his bones and needed to wear a cast for a month, keep his arm ...

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Tobacco is the single biggest cause of preventable death and disability in the United States. But nicotine is highly addictive, and quitting the cigarette habit can be extremely tough. L.J., a 55 year old man who gave up smoking after 35 years, proves that it can be done. In L.J.'s words, he was "sick and tired of being sick and tired." But he didn't do it alone; his success depended on ...

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The mole on Ivis Febus-Sampayo's face looked odd. But it wasn't until her son needed treatment for acne that she went to a dermatologist. "As mothers, we're working, we're busy," she said. "I forgot about me and called the dermatologist to make sure my son was getting taken care of." The doctor removed a sliver of the mole, and reassured Ivis that it was probably nothing to worry about. Two weeks later, ...

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