Use of preventive services
According to research studies, persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to skip important preventive measures such as mammograms, Pap smears, and flu shots.1 When compared to those with adequate health literacy skills, studies have shown that patients with limited health literacy skills enter the healthcare system when they are sicker.2
Knowledge about medical conditions and treatment
Persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to have chronic conditions and are less able to manage them effectively. Studies have found that patients with high blood pressure,3 diabetes,3-5 asthma,6 or HIV/AIDS7-9who have limited health literacy skills have less knowledge of their illness and its management.
Rates of hospitalization
Limited health literacy skills are associated with an increase in preventable hospital visits and admissions.10-13 Studies have demonstrated a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services among patients with limited literacy skills.12
Persons with limited health literacy skills make greater use of services designed to treat complications of disease and less use of services designed to prevent complications.1, 11-13 Studies demonstrate a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services among patients with limited health literacy skills.10-13 This higher use is associated with higher healthcare costs.15 16,
Stigma and shame
Low health literacy may also have negative psychological effects. One study found that those with limited health literacy skills reported a sense of shame about their skill level.17 As a result, they may hide reading or vocabulary difficulties to maintain their dignity.18
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