Preparing for an Epidemic of Limited Health Literacy: Weathering the Perfect Storm
Parker et al (2008): Empirical data collected over the past two decades have demonstrated strong links between low literacy skills and poor health outcomes, including mortality. Recently, the Educational Testing Service released a relevant report predicting that our nation is at great risk as a result of declining adult literacy, shifting demographics, and a changing economy. It is essential to understand how these educational and socioeconomic changes will impact health care and prepare for a likely epidemic of limited health literacy. A formative public health response should include seeking out new strategies for health systems to advance our public’s health literacy, while working with the educational system to better equip younger generations with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate health care.
Health Literacy: A Policy Challenge For Advancing High-Quality Health Care
Health literacy, at the intersection of health and education, involves more than reading ability. Studies of health literacy abilities show that many Americans with the greatest health care needs have the least ability to comprehend information required to navigate and function in the U.S. health care system. This paper by Parker et al (2003) defines health literacy as an important policy issue and offers strategies for creating a health-literate America.
MedlinePlus and the challenge of low health literacy: findings from the Colonias project
The objective of this study by Olney et al (2007) was to explore the potential of a community-based health information outreach project to overcome problems associated with health literacy in low-income Hispanic communities along the Texas-Mexico border. They found that with the help of paraprofessionals like promotoras, community-based health information outreach projects may improve the ability of community residents to understand their health conditions and to participate actively in their health care.
Promoting Health Literacy
This report by McCray (2004) reviews some of the extensive literature in health literacy, much of it focused on the intersection of low literacy and the understanding of basic health care information. Several articles describe methods for assessing health literacy as well as methods for assessing the readability of texts, although generally these latter have not been developed with health materials in mind. Other studies have looked more closely at the mismatch between patients' literacy levels and the readability of materials intended for use by those patients. A number of studies have investigated the phenomenon of literacy from the perspective of patients' interactions in the health care setting, the disenfranchisement of some patients because of their low literacy skills, the difficulty some patients have in navigating the health care system, the quality of the communication between doctors and their patients including the cultural overlay of such exchanges, and ultimately the effect of low literacy on health outcomes. Finally, the impact of new information technologies has been studied by a number of investigators. There remain many opportunities for conducting further research to gain a better understanding of the complex interactions between general literacy, health literacy, information technologies, and the existing health care infrastructure.
Clinical, classroom, or personal education: attitudes about health literacy
This study by Logan (2007) explores how diverse attitudes about health literacy are assessed by medical librarians and other health care professionals. The author concludes that each factor's attitudes about the appropriate educational venue to initiate health literacy activities are different and somewhat mutually exclusive. This suggests that health literacy is seen through different perceptual frameworks that represent a possible source of professional disagreement.
How Can Health Care Organizations Become More Health Literate?: Workshop Summary
The workshop summary from the US Institute of Medicine (2012) summarises a workshop which discussed the growing recognition that health literacy depends not only on individual skills and abilities but also on the demands and complexities of the health care system.
Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy
This resource is provided by Fairfax County Public Schools in the United States, and is designed to help ESOL instructors address topics that affect the health and well-being of their students. Picture stories use a paneled comic-style layout, cartoon characters, and minimal words to help entice students to ask appropriate questions and instructors to relay the correct information in a meaningful way.
Improving Communication – Improving Care
This document, published by the American Medical Association (2006), is a guide to "how health care organizations can ensure effective, patient-centered communication with people from diverse populations". It includes a section on health literacy and provides information about why health literacy is important to health care companies, offering suggestions for organizations in terms of health literacy goals.
Associations Between Older Adults’ Spoken Interactive Health Literacy and Selected Health Care and Health Communication Outcomes
Recent trends in the conceptualization of health literacy lead toward expansive notions of health literacy as social practice, rather than as a narrower cognitive capacity to understand health-related texts and materials. These expansive and complex constructions of health literacy demand tools for assessing individuals’ propensities to actively seek information in their interactions with health care professionals and other health information sources. This study proposes a measure of this information-exchange component of health literacy and examines its capacity to predict outcomes and processes such as satisfaction with health care and comprehension of spoken health messages (Rubin et al, 2011).