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Facts | Fact Sheets

Health Literacy


Health literacy is critical for families. Proper health care keeps families working and children in school. Average health literacy increases when adults improve their literacy skills. Help legislators understand how important adult literacy is in our nation’s health.

New Literacy Fact Sheet:

Health Literacy Fact Sheet

For Example:

What is Health Literacy?

  • Health literacy also refers to the capacity of professionals and institutions to communicate effectively so that community members can make informed decisions and take appropriate actions to protect and promote their health.

Who Are Adults with Low Health Literacy?

  • People with poor health literacy have poor health outcomes:
    • Adults aged 65+ had the lowest average health literacy scores.
    • More Americans aged 65+ had Below Basic or Basic Skills than any other age group (29 + 30%).
    • Adults with Medicare and Medicaid or no health insurance had the lowest average health literacy scores.

Why Does the Health Literacy of Adults Matter?

  • People with low functional health literacy are more likely to incur higher health care costs. A study of Medicaid patients found those reading below third-grade level had average annual health care costs four times those of the overall Medicaid population (Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.)
  • Individuals with low health literacy incur medical expenses that are up to four times greater than patients with adequate literacy skills, costing the health care system billions of dollars every year for unnecessary doctor visits and hospital stays.
  • In order to get the right health care for themselves and their families, adults must be able to understand basic health information. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), average health literacy increases as adult literacy increases.

What Should Congress Do?

  • Support the National Coalition for Literacy’s position to increase appropriations for adult education and literacy. Adult literacy programs, especially those that teach literacy in the context of health, can help improve our nation’s health.

Fact Sheets

Health and Literacy (ppt)
Health and Literacy is a slide presentation developed by Marsha Tait, in collaboration with Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse, and presented to nursing practitioners. Adult literacy advocates will find facts here about health and literacy. Use these facts to connect adult literacy to legislators’ interests in health, welfare, Medicare and Medicaid.

Health Literacy Fact Sheets
From the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., this series of nine fact sheets (listed below) was created for those who are designing patient education materials for consumers with low health literacy skills. The sheets define health literacy, describe its impact on health outcomes, provide strategies to prepare appropriate educational materials to assist low-literate consumers, and provide resources for additional health literacy information and publications.

  • What is Health Literacy?
  • Who has Health Literacy Problems? 
  • Impact of Low Literacy Skills on Annual Health Care Expenditures 
  • Health Literacy and Understanding Medical Information
  • Strategies to Assist Low-Literate Health Care Consumers
  • Preparing Patient Education Materials
  • Tools to Evaluate Patient Education Materials
  • Health Communication and Cultural Diversity
  • Resources for Health Literacy Information and Publications
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National Coalition for Literacy Home
National Coalition for Literacy PO Box 2932 Washington, DC 20013-2932