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. Research shows that only 12 percent of adults (or roughly 1 in 10) have a proficiency in health literacy, while 30 million adults have below basic health literacy. Probably not surprising, those with below basic health literacy are more likely to have a lack of health insurance and have poor health outcomes, which ultimately results in higher healthcare costs.
Populations most likely to experience low health literacy are older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, people with less than a high school degree, people with low income levels, non-native speakers of English and people with compromised health status.
Most everyone agrees that as a society we need to better control health care cost. One important way to provide quality health care while significantly reducing health care cost is to improve health literacy. If as a nation we can accomplish this goal, people will be better able to navigate the health care system, accurately share personal information with providers, engage in self care and chronic disease management and be confident enough to ask questions about the type and quality of care they are receiving.
The Health Care Foundation is joining with others to help achieve this important goal. It will reduce health care costs and provide better health outcomes. Now that is a win-win!