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FP Essent. 2013 Nov;414:19-24.

Practice improvement, part II: health literacy.

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  • 1Fort Lincoln Family Medicine Center, 4151 Bladensburg Rd, Colmar Manor, MD 20722,


Approximately half of American adults have limited health literacy, and the majority have inadequate skills for preventing disease and managing their own health. Low health literacy results in poor health outcomes, including mortality, and high health care costs. Screening for health literacy using a validated instrument can facilitate targeted support services. In the alternative, practices can use universal approaches through practice assessments, improving spoken and written communications, enhancing patient empowerment through self-management education and training, and creating supportive systems. This effort can be driven by clinician interventions (eg, use of the teach-back educational method), tools for patient use (eg, visual and decision aids), and/or system-wide interventions. Materials for tailoring a practice approach to enhancing health literacy are available through the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality.

Written permission from the American Academy of Family Physicians is required for reproduction of this material in whole or in part in any form or medium.

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