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Postgrad Med. 2009 Sep;121(5):171-7. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2009.09.2065.

Strategies for improving low health literacy.

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Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, NJ 07754, USA.


More than 1 in 3 adults in the United States have low health literacy, which can adversely affect the quality and cost of health care. These individuals are less likely than those who are health literate to be knowledgeable about their chronic diseases and possess adequate self-management skills, and are more likely to make medication errors. Demographic risk factors alone cannot identify such patients. Health care providers should use a rapid screening test to identify patients with low health literacy, tailor literacy-related interventions to the communication needs of the individual patient, and assess patient recall and comprehension. Effective strategies to improve patient comprehension include conveying a few key points at each patient visit, jargon-free communication, use of pictures to clarify concepts, and confirmation of patient comprehension via the "show-me" or "teach-back" method. Despite these advances, collaboration between multiple stakeholders in the health care system is necessary to overcome barriers to health literacy and enhance quality of care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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