Frequently Asked Question: Why ❤ Health Literacy?

Illustration of doodle pulling petals off a daisy, surrounded by hearts, saying "Let me count the ways..."

You probably know that we ❤ health literacy. (Did our name give it away?) And since you’re reading this, you probably do too. But every once in a while, it’s important to ask ourselves: Why does health literacy matter?

It’s easy for those of us in the field to forget how many people out there don’t understand how crucial health literacy is. Part of our job, then, is to spread the gospel. We must always be prepared, dear readers, to respond to an earnest question from a colleague or a challenge from a misguided “dumbing down” dissenter.

We think these facts make a pretty good quick pitch:

  • Only 1 in 10 U.S. adults have the skills needed to use health information that is routinely available in health care facilities, retail outlets, and the media.
  • People with poor health are 5 times more likely to have below basic health literacy skills than people in good health. (This reality is compounded by the fact that health literacy skills decrease when you’re stressed or sick.)
  • People with limited health literacy skills often get worse care and have more medication errors, longer hospital stays, and higher death rates.

It’s no abstraction. Health literacy — or the lack of it — has a direct impact on people’s well-being and health. The good news is that by making health information easier for everyone to understand, we can improve health outcomes for millions of Americans. And, we might add, this is waaaaaay more cost-effective than complex medical interventions.

How about you? What makes you passionate about health literacy and drives you to spread the word? Tell us in the comments below.

The bottom line: Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and remember why we all ❤ health literacy — and why we need to keep spreading the word.


Browse recent posts

Do you heart health literacy? We sure do! Sign up to get practical health literacy tips and tricks — delivered to your inbox every week.