HEALTH LITERACY LIBRARY

According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) everyone has the right to  health information that helps them make informed decisions and  health services should be delivered in ways that are understandable and beneficial to health, longevity, and quality of life. (1)

  1. Disease prevention is the foundation of the public health system. Prevention is a barrier if patients do not understand what health professionals are saying to them. Improving the nation's health literacy is critical to creating a system of care based on wellness and prevention
    (2)
     

  2. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." (3)
     

  3. Research has shown the direct association between low health literacy and a poor understanding of preventive care information and access to preventive care services in adults. Studies also demonstrate that low health literacy levels are predictors of poor health outcomes overall. (4)
     

  4. Adults with poor health literacy are more likely to report their health as poor (42%) and are more likely to lack health insurance (28%) than adults are with proficient health literacy. (5)
     

  5. Patients with low health literacy use emergency services more frequently, have higher health care costs, utilize preventive services less frequently, and are associated with higher mortality rates. (6)
     

  6. Patients with low health literacy use services designed to treat the complications of disease at a greater rate than services designed to prevent complications. They also tend to enter the health care system when they are sicker, consequently increasing the length of treatment and reducing positive health outcomes. (7)
     

  7. There is also a strong correlation between health literacy and health disparities. HHS reports that the cultural and linguistic differences among patients directly impact their health literacy levels, which, in turn, contributes to an increased prevalence of health disparities. Among elderly adults, racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, low-income individuals, and non-native speakers of English, promoting health literacy is a strategy to reduce disparities while improving the provision of patient-centered care. (8)
     

  8. Marginalized communities are systematically excluded from full participation in the American dream and consequently lack the self-efficacy to improve their life situation. Significant disparities exist for marginalized people in every aspect of their lives. Race, ethnicity, gender, age, income are contributors to marginalization. 
     

  9.  Marginalized groups are often victims to mistreatment and exploitation by caregivers, family, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and professionals. They are likely to avert help-seeking behaviors due to being aware of the stereotypes applied to their group, and consequently are negatively impacted by poor health outcomes. 
     

  10. Health literacy results in the increased utilization of preventive resources, and influences a patient's understanding of clinicians' instructions on how to effectively manage chronic health conditions. (9)
     

  11. The advantages of improving health literacy include improved health care decisions, communication, compliance to treatment directions, and improved health status, all of which should result in cost savings to the health care system and improved patient–provider satisfaction. (10)
     

  12. The proper delivery of health information results in a culture of improved health literacy to improve the health of individuals and of all communities. (11)
     

(1) Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) National action plan to improve health literacy. [cited 2020 Apr 29]. Available from: URL: http://www.health.gov/communication/HLActionPlan.

(2)  Benjamin R. M. (2010). Improving health by improving health literacy. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 125(6), 784–785. https://doi.org/10.1177/003335491012500602

(3)  Department of Health and Human Services (US). 2nd ed. Volumes 1 and 2. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2000. Healthy people 2010: with understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health.

(4) Health literacy and child health promotion: implications for research, clinical care, and public policy. Sanders LM, Shaw JS, Guez G, Baur C, Rudd R Pediatrics. 2009 Nov; 124 Suppl 3():S306-14.

(5)  Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, Halpern DJ, Crotty K. (2011) Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 19; 155(2):97-107.

(6) Chesser, A. K., Keene Woods, N., Smothers, K., & Rogers, N. (2016). Health Literacy and Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Gerontology & geriatric medicine, 2, 2333721416630492. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333721416630492

(7)  Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, Halpern DJ, Crotty K. (2011) Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 19; 155(2):97-107.

(8)  Promoting health care equity: is health literacy a missing link? Hasnain-Wynia R, Wolf MS Health Serv Res. 2010 Aug; 45(4):897-903.​

(9) Benjamin R. M. (2010). Improving health by improving health literacy. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 125(6), 784–785. https://doi.org/10.1177/003335491012500602

(10) Chesser, A. K., Keene Woods, N., Smothers, K., & Rogers, N. (2016). Health Literacy and Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Gerontology & geriatric medicine, 2, 2333721416630492. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333721416630492

(11) Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) National action plan to improve health literacy. [cited 2020 Apr 29]. Available from: URL: http://www.health.gov/communication/HLActionPlan.