Low Health Literacy and Health Outcomes

Annals of Internal Medicine
July 19, 2011; 155 (2)

Low Health Literacy and Health Outcomes: An Updated Systematic Review
Nancy D. Berkman, Stacey L. Sheridan, Katrina E. Donahue, David J. Halpern, and Karen Crotty
Ann Intern Med July 19, 2011 155:97-107;

Health literacy has been associated with health-related knowledge and patient comprehension. This systematic review updates a 2004 review and found 96 eligible studies that suggest that low health literacy is associated with less ability to understand and follow medical advice, poorer health outcomes, and differential use of some health care services. Policymakers, clinicians, and other stakeholders need to find ways to reduce the effects of low health literacy on health outcomes.

Testing Rules of Thumb and the Science of Health Literacy
Cynthia Baur and Nancy Ostrove
Ann Intern Med July 19, 2011 155:129-130;

In this issue, the study by Woloshin and Schwartz suggests that lay people understand percents better than natural frequencies when considering information about drug therapies, and Berkman and colleagues’ findings address conventional wisdom about the associations between health literacy and some health-related outcomes. This editorial discusses these 2 articles in light of currently accepted ideas about health literacy. The editorialists assert that the findings reinforce a fundamental principle of health literacy: the need to pretest communication materials with the target audience.