Health Literacy Awareness



Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Unfortunately, health literacy rates are fairly low in the United States, and these rates directly affect the care that patients receive.


An individual’s health literacy is dependent on:


  • Communication skills

  • Knowledge of topics

  • Culture

  • Demands of the situation at hand; it is easy to understand how a person’s health literacy rate can be decreased in stressful or foreign situations


A patient’s health literacy affects their ability to:


  • Navigate the health care system

  • Share personal information with practitioners

  • Engage in self-care and chronic disease management

  • Understand concepts such as probability and risk


As a practitioner, you can share with a patient details about a diagnosis or treatment plan; however, if the patient has low health literacy, the information most likely will not be comprehended or followed.


Low health literacy is linked to poor health outcomes, increased rates of hospitalization, low usage of preventative services, and increased health care costs.  It is important for the health care community to raise awareness of health literacy in patients to reach the goal of providing better health outcomes to patients.



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