Nancy D. Berkman, PhD
Potential Conflicts of Interest: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/conflictFormServlet/M11-0110/ICMJE/Berkman-3918.pdf.
Berkman N.; Low Health Literacy. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:795. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-155-11-201112060-00022
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(11):795.
Health literacy is a set of skills that people need to function effectively in the health care environment. These skills include reading and understanding text, locating information in documents, using numerical information (for example, measuring, counting, and ratios), and speaking and listening effectively. In our article, my colleagues and I examined the relationship between relative shortcomings in these skills (referred to as low health literacy) and poorer health outcomes.
On the basis of our systematic review of 96 studies, we agree with Dr. Rudd that future studies including analytic frameworks that thoughtfully conceptualize the link between individuals' health literacy level and their health outcomes would enhance these 2 factors. Some studies have more thoroughly considered the complexity of this relationship. They have examined the role of other, potentially intervening factors on outcomes; for example, previous knowledge and beliefs about one's medical condition and level of self-efficacy. More patient-oriented research examining how these and other characteristics can affect outcomes for persons with low health literacy (as Dr. Padmanabhan suggests) is needed.
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