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The challenge of healthcare illiteracy

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An article in JAMA notes the paradox that in spite of  “a rapid expansion of medical knowledge intended to benefit many, too few actually understand medical information well enough to improve their health. A landmark 2006 report notes that only about 12% of U.S. adults had a proficient state of health literacy whereby individuals can obtain, process and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions.” American patients tend to have less healthcare literacy than do people in other industrialized democracies.

Still, the article concludes, “Over the past 2 decades the lens of health literacy has widened greatly. In addition to focusing on the needs of individual patients, the field now brings the promise of greater commitment and shared responsibility from clinicians, institutions, and care systems. The arc of health literacy bends toward population health. Leveraging such an approach now can comprehensively address the paradox of limited literacy with the hope that someday all people can fully realize their full health potential.”

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