A CHEO doctor has led an initiative to develop a series of pictograms that help explain how medications should be taken.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the International Pharmaceutical Federation are offering their pictogram software — which graphically conveys to patients how medicine should be taken — for hospitals and pharmacies across North America and Europe to download free of charge.

"This is all about health literacy — the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions," said CHEO's director of pharmacy Dr. Régis Vaillancourt.


According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, about 26 per cent of the world's adult population is illiterate.

"We need to make it safer and easier for people all over the world, including right here in Canada, to take medicine," said Vaillancourt. "Language, education, age and even culture may impact how people interpret medical instructions. With something this critical, it is important to help reduce the possibility of mistakes."

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