A Review of the impact of the health literacy status of patients on health outcomes
Background: Providing quality health information is at the core of health service provision. Patients need access to impartial and high quality health information to make informed decisions on health matters. Poor health information can prevent people from making effective choices. Besides, lack of health information can be damaging for patients, their relatives, health professionals and the entire society. The objective of this review is to examine the extent and impact of low health literacy among patients by focusing on its health, economic and social impacts; it will also discuss the implications for health service providers and other stake holders by focusing on strategies that will help improve patients' health literacy status so that they can achieve good clinical outcomes.
Methods: A search of some standard books and relevant articles on health literacy among patients and its implications for health service providers was done using the Google and Yahoo search engine as well as EMBASE and OVID MEDLINE data bases. Keywords employed were low health literacy, healthcare impact and health outcomes.
Results: The problem of low literacy exists in several countries; most adults lack basic literacy skills as well as basic numeracy skills. The Health literacy statistics report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2004) shows that nearly half the United States of America population has difficulty understanding and using health information.
Conclusion: Low health literacy incurs significant costs to society, investing in health literacy will improve population health outcomes and reduce health care costs.
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