The purpose of this paper is to explore health literacy of adults in the United States and review health outcomes as well as provider implications. Limited health literacy is a serious problem in the United States. Approximately 80 million adults in the United States have limited health literacy, which can adversely affect the quality of their health care. Poor health outcomes are associated with being health illiterate. Evidence shows that limited health literacy is associated with more hospitalizations; greater use of emergency care; lower receipt of mammography screening and influenza vaccine; poorer ability to demonstrate taking medications properly; poorer ability to interpret drug labels and health messages; and, among elderly persons, poorer overall health status and higher mortality rates. Health literacy is essential for patients to be able to take control and manage their own health. The benefits of being health literate include greater patient safety, less hospitalizations, a greater ability to care for oneself, and a greater cost savings to the healthcare system. This paper emphasizes “best practices” recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),1 The American Medical Association (AMA),2 the Institute of Medicine (IOM),3 the Center for Disease Control (CDC),4 and the Joint Commission (JCAHO) 5 When patients, providers and communities work together to understand and improve health literacy a greater quality of life will result. Today’s health care providers are in a position to make an impact on the health illiteracy epidemic and improve the patient’s understanding about their health and outcomes.

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Marilyn McDonald DHSc, APRN, AGNP is the Adult-Gero Nurse Practitioner Program Lead in the Nurse Practitioner program at Purdue University Global. She received her MSN at Yale University and her DHSc at Nova Southeastern University. She practices as an AGNP at The Rutland Free Clinic in Rutland, Vermont.

Professor Laura Shenkman FNP-C, APRN, MSN is the Family Nurse Practitioner Program Lead in the Nurse Practitioner program at Purdue University Global. She received her MSN from Duke University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in nursing at Purdue University Global. She practices as an FNP in rural North Carolina.





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