As Health Care Reform is implemented, the debate continues on two fronts: (1) is the law truly going to impact costs and (2) how will the millions of Americans who are currently uninsured impact provider access? While these two topics have dominated the discussion, there has been little discussion on how health literacy will impact both.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle, knowing how to seek medical care, and taking advantage of preventive measures require that people understand and use health information. The ability to obtain, process, and understand health information needed to make informed health decisions is known as health literacy. Numerous studies have indicated that limited literacy skills are a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than age, racial or ethnic group, income, employment status, or education level.
Health information can overwhelm even persons with advanced literacy skills. Medical technology and science continues to progress rapidly. And in a 24-7 news cycle, early studies are often presented as “fact” and can confuse even those with a proficient understanding of health. In addition, health information that is provided in a stressful or unfamiliar situation is unlikely to be retained.
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. Fourteen percent of adults (30 million people) have below basic health literacy.… Read more..