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Half of American adults are health-care illiterate

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about half of the adults in the U.S. have inadequate skills when it comes to understanding their health care options and now, a new report details how greater knowledge can lead to healthier lives.

“The relationship between health literacy and health outcomes is very important,” lead author of the report, Stan Hudson, told the University of Missouri School of Medicine. “We found that low health literacy is a contributing factor for readmission for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

The study, called “Improving Health and the Bottom Line: The Case for Health Literacy” showed how greater individual health literacy can achieve the “Quadruple Aim” or the four main goals of care — improving community health, reducing health costs, enhancing the quality of care and improving patient and provider experiences.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates health expenditures will cost the $ 3.5 trillion in 2017,” Hudson told the university. “We know from previous research that limited health literacy increases costs not only for the U.S. health system, but also for patients and providers. Based on cost analysis of that research, we estimate sufficient health literacy could save $ 105 to $ 175 billion each year.”

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The study polled health literacy professionals about educational programs currently in place, focusing specifically on community health and how health literacy affected patient-doctor experiences.

“From an ethical standpoint, it also plays a vital role in equitable care,” Hudson said. “Health literacy helps ensure the best quality of care for everyone.”

“Improving health literacy will involve working with providers to communicate more effectively,” the study’s co-author Karen Edison said. We also need to empower patients and their families through educational and outreach strategies. Ultimately, we need to create opportunities for patients to understand their care as they navigate the health care system.”

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