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New Report Estimates Cost of Low Health Literacy Between $106 - $236 Billion Annually
Date:10/12/2007

Experts discuss if improving health literacy is the solution to providing

coverage for the nation's 47 million uninsured people

STORRS, Conn., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released today from the University of Connecticut states that the cost of low health literacy to the United States economy is in the range of $106 billion to $236 billion annually. According to the report, Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy, the savings that could be achieved by improving health literacy translates into enough funds to insure every one of the more than 47 million persons who lacked coverage in the United States in 2006, according to recent Census Bureau estimates(1).

"Health literacy" is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information. According to the U.S. Department of Education's 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), which contained a health literacy component for the first time, 36 percent of the adult U.S. population -- approximately 87 million people -- has only Basic or Below Basic health literacy levels.

Persons with Basic health literacy would have trouble, even when using information from a clearly written, accurate pamphlet, providing two reasons why persons with certain symptoms might have a specified test. Individuals considered to have Below Basic health literacy would not be able to recognize a medical appointment on a hospital appointment form, nor would they be able to determine from a clearly written pamphlet containing basic information how often a person might have a specified medical test.

"Our findings suggest that low health literacy exacts enormous costs on both the health system and society, and that current expenditures could be far better directed through a commitment to improving health literacy," said John A. Vernon, PhD, Department of Finance, University of Connecticut, and lead aut
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SOURCE University of Connecticut
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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