Health literacy a priority in health reform

Health literacy is needed to make health reform a reality, according to an article in Kaiser Health News. 

A study done in 2006 found that 36 percent of Americans have basic or below basic health literacy skills, meaning that they may not be able to correctly interpret any health information written above a fifth grade reading level.  Low health literacy is associated with higher readmission rates, expensive and avoidable complications, and even death.

The article states that the new health reform law mandates that information about medications and providers be made accessible to those with limited skills.  To address the problem, beginning this year, the Joint Commission is requiring the use of plain-language written materials when providing care. Some health providers are providing patients with videos or handouts with lots of pictures instead of written handouts. 

(Sources: Kaiser Health News,, March 1, 2011; The Advisory Board Daily Briefing,, March 2, 2011)