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J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Aug;23(8):1273-6. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0621-1. Epub 2008 May 2.

Preparing for an epidemic of limited health literacy: weathering the perfect storm.

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Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Empirical data collected over the past two decades have demonstrated strong links between low literacy skills and poor health outcomes, including mortality. Recently, the Educational Testing Service released a relevant report predicting that our nation is at great risk as a result of declining adult literacy, shifting demographics, and a changing economy. It is essential to understand how these educational and socioeconomic changes will impact health care and prepare for a likely epidemic of limited health literacy. A formative public health response should include seeking out new strategies for health systems to advance our public's health literacy, while working with the educational system to better equip younger generations with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate health care.

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