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Health Literacy: Integrating into Health Care Systems

  • By: Michael S. Wolf & Marina Serper
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Health literacy is one of the fastest growing topics in health care, having been the subject of multiple national and international reports. The term health literacy refers to an individual's ability to access, understand, and use health information to make informed decisions. More than 600 research studies have targeted the problem of inadequate health literacy, which affects nearly half of all Americans. Those with more limited health literacy skills possess less health knowledge, demonstrate poorer self-care, have worse physical and mental health, are hospitalized more frequently, and have a greater mortality risk. Many struggle to understand and navigate health plans, read medical information, make sense of lab values and numbers clarifying one's condition, remember information and instructions from the doctor, or generally solve health ...

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