Patients’ health literacy
Better health literacy is a means to tackle health inequalities
- By: Sukhpal S Gill, John Skelton
Although the term “health literacy” has been around since 1974, its meaning has evolved: it now means much more than the ability to read and comprehend medical information.1 “Health literacy” is defined as the ability to make sound health decisions in the context of everyday life—at home, in the community, at the workplace, in the healthcare system, in the marketplace, and in the political arena—and so it is related to the general concept of “literacy.”
Poor health, higher rates of hospital admissions, and poor adherence to medical advice are common in health illiterate populations.2 In addition, patients with low health literacy underuse preventive services and experience more drug related problems. Achieving better health literacy is therefore a means of tackling health inequalities.
The financial costs of low health literacy are disturbing. Direct attributable annual costs to the US economy have been reported as high as $236bn (£144bn; €167bn).3 No such