Over at the National Institute for Literacy (or NIFL, not to be confused with our partner, the NCFL or National Center for Family Literacy), there’s a podcast from this past August about the findings of the “2003 Assessment of Adult Health Literacy.” Head over there to see the full results. They define “health literacy” as:
Health Literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Health Literacy is important for all adults; it is not just important for those who cannot read. It is also and can be an issue for well-educated adults to know and understand health information needed to make everyday decisions. Making good decision, health decisions, depends on having a high level of reading and comprehension skills.
As the page suggests, the following were the basic conclusions from the report, but there are much more in depth comments and findings within the report (natch):
Health literacy was reported using four performance levels: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient. The majority of adults (53 percent) had Intermediate health literacy. About 22 percent had Basic and 14 percent had Below Basic health literacy. Relationships between health literacy and background variables (such as educational attainment, age, race/ethnicity, where adults get information about health issues, and health insurance coverage) were also examined and reported. For example, adults with Below Basic or Basic health literacy were less likely than adults with higher health literacy to get information about health issues from written sources (newspapers, magazines, books, brochures, or the Internet) and more likely than adults with higher health literacy to get a lot of information about health issues from radio and television.