A study just released from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that the poor outcomes and overutilization of resources for individuals with low health literacy are more widespread than before, corroborating a landmark 2004 study detailing the effects of low health literacy on a person’s ability to navigate the healthcare system and ultimately achieve good health status.
Older Americans with limited health literacy are more likely to visit emergency rooms and receive inpatient care than individuals with higher levels of literacy, according to the report, Health Literacy Interventions and Outcomes. In addition, limited health literacy results in:
- Less chance of preventive care, such as flu shots.
- Poor understanding of medical labels and directions.
- Increased chance of taking medications incorrectly.
- Fewer mammograms in women.
- Poor preventive measures and adherence rates in minorities.
"Ensuring that people understand health care information is critical to a high-quality, safe health care system," said AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy. "Improving health literacy will be a major step in the nation's efforts to enhance health care quality and safety."
In 2010, Health and Human Services launched the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, which contains educational materials for healthcare providers.