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Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2006 Dec;15(5):448-52.

Health literacy: more choice, but do cancer patients have the skills to decide?

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Information Consultancy Programme, Macmillan Cancer Relief, London, UK.


As health care moves towards greater choice, with shared responsibility and decision making between doctors and patients, a variety of resources and skills are needed by individuals if they are to be active participants in their health. Health literacy is the ability to make the most out of health. For an individual, it is the capacity to obtain, interpret and understand basic health information and services in ways that enhance health. In developed countries, however, over half of the population have reading and comprehension difficulties, creating a gap between the educational expectations of health-care services and an individual's ability to understand. This review highlights the difficulty many cancer patients face as a consequence of their poor literacy and comprehension skills. It draws attention to a problem whose magnitude is not always easy to recognize and suggests simple ways health professionals can more effectively communicate with their patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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