Economic Considerations of Health Literacy

Roberta Pawlak


Nurs Econ. 2005;23(4):173-180. 

In This Article

Health Economic Issues

Economics is defined as the allocation of scarce resources. Health-oriented activities consume a large portion of economic resources of modern societies, such as the United States, in the production and distribution of health care. Health care is not free. It represents a major commitment of resources: time, energy, skill development, raw materials, and capital, which are then unavailable for other forms of production (Evans & Stoddart, 1990). Health spending is predicted to outpace the overall U.S. economy by 2.5% per year, resulting in growth from 13.2% of GDP in 2000 to 17% in 2010 (Kindig & Newsom, 2002). National health care expenditures in the United States are predicted to rise in excess of $3 trillion by 2012 (Heffler et al., 2002). Weiss and colleagues (1994) caution the average annual health care costs of persons with very low literacy may be four times greater than for the general population. Low literacy, an aging population, prevalence of chronic conditions, and a complicated health care system influence and magnify health disparities in the United States. Illiteracy places an additional cost burden on the U.S. health system, with complicated economic implications.


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