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An Introduction To Health Literacy


Dr. Bonaparte and Ms. Ohene-Frimpong define health literacy and discuss the scope of the deficiencies in health literacy among Americans. Health literacy is defined as the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. A surprising amount of people in the United States – almost 90 percent, according to some studies - show at least some deficiency in health literacy. Almost half of Americans have deficiencies in basic literacy – reading comprehension and understanding basic math – according to some studies. This lack of health literacy is very important; it could mean the difference, for one example, between a patient successfully controlling diabetes or that patient ultimately developing renal or cardiac complications. Indeed, degree of health literacy is a better predictor of outcomes than age, income, employment, ethnicity, or education level.