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Why is Health Literacy important?  Health literacy allows patients and families to receive and understand health information so they can be advocates for their own care.  Although health literacy may primarily focus on understanding words, numeracy skills are usually addressed as well.  These skills can be important when discussing medication adherance and presciption dosing, as well as keeping and attending upcoming appointments. 

Why Does Health Literacy Matter?

Low health literacy has been found to be associated with:

  •       Increased hospitalizations

  •       Greater use of emergency care

  •       Difficulty reading and adhering to prescription labels

  •       Lower use of preventive services such as vaccination and mammography

  •       Lower health status

  •       Increased mortality rates

  •       Reduced disease management

  •       And MORE


Who is Affected by Low Health Literacy?

Poor health literacy affects a large proportion of the U.S. population (Kutner, Greenberg, Jin, & Paulsen, 2006).

  •       36% of U.S. adults have basic or below basic health literacy.

  •       Only 12% of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy.

  •       Minorities trend towards lower health literacy than non-Hispanic whites with 9% of whites, 24% of

             blacks, and 41% of Asian/Pacific Islanders having below basic health literacy.

  •       Adults age 65+ have lower health literacy than all other age groups.

  •       Those living in poverty have lower average health literacy scores.

Works Cited

Institute of Medicine. (2004). Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. (A. M. Lynn Nielsen-Bohlman, Ed.) Washington, D.C.: The National Academic Press.


Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin, Y., & Paulsen, C. (2006). The Health Literacy of America’s Adults Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

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