Health literacy rates are increasingly gaining the attention of providers, organizations and lawmakers. A new report based on study of medical literature says people who are unable to understand and act on issues related to their own health care have poorer health and a higher risk of death.
Adults with low health literacy are less likely to get a flu shot, understand medical labels and instructions, and have a greater likelihood of taking medicine incorrectly, the report says. Also, women with low health literacy are less likely to get mammograms. Overall, the report indicates that minorities have lower health literacy rates than the rest of the population.
More than 75 million English-speaking adults across the nation have difficulty understanding and using basic health information. That was the focus of the second annual Kentucky Health Literacy Summit last week.
The report, which was released Monday, updates 2004 literature that reviewed the findings of more than 100 studies. It was compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In May 2010, the department launched an action plan that asks stakeholders to simplify their health-related handouts, forms and websites by removing jargon and complicated explanations. It also calls for improving patient-provider communication. (Read more)