Health Literacy & Patient Education

Terri Ottosen, MLIS, AHIP

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Terri Ottosen

Introduction

Health literacy is the ability to read, understand, and act on health care information

        Healthy People 2030 addresses both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy and provides the following            definitions:

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

The AMA Council of Scientific Affairs more specifically defines functional health literacy as:

the ability to read and comprehend prescription bottles, appointment slips, and the other essential health-related materials required to successfully function as a patient.

The Calgary Charter further defines health literacy as:

the use of a wide range of skills that improve the ability of people to act on information in order to live healthier lives. These skills include reading, writing, listening, speaking, numeracy, and critical analysis, as well as communication and interaction skills.

Assessing the Literacy Level of Patients