Economic Considerations of Health Literacy

Roberta Pawlak


Nurs Econ. 2005;23(4):173-180. 

In This Article

Definitions and Measurement Tools

Health literacy is defined 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 (DHHS, 2000). This could include obtaining, interpreting, and processing health insurance plans or complying with prescribed treatment plans given by a health provider. Functional health literacy is operationally defined as the ability of patients to perform basic reading tasks required to function in the health care environment (Williams et al., 1995), and could include the ability of reading drug prescription bottles. Literacy is defined as the ability to read, write, and speak in English and to compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential (Selden et al., 2000). Available literacy and functional health literacy tests can be found in Table 1 , and focus primarily on the ability of reading numbers and words. Research is needed to improve the measurement of health literacy, as this concept is much broader than the current literacy tools are able to capture.


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