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Back to School: Improving Health Literacy to Improve Health

October 1, 2007

The start of a new school year represents an opportune time to consider how literacy skills can influence both the quality of the health care services people receive and the health outcomes they experience. Health literacy is defined as the ability to "obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions" (Institute of Medicine 2004). This broad, functional definition requires that an individual have basic literacy skills- the ability to listen, speak, read, write, and do simple math- as well as the capacity to apply these literacy skills within the often complex context of the health care system.

PDF Format Issue Focus 9-17-2007 — 398KB