Health literacy is the degree to which one can understand and make decisions based on health information. Nearly 90 million adults in the United States have limited health literacy. While poor health literacy spans all demographics, rates of low health literacy are disproportionately higher among those with lower socioeconomic status, limited education, or limited English proficiency, as well as among the elderly and individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between low health literacy and poor health outcomes.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act designed to extend access to health care coverage to millions of Americans who have been previously uninsured. Many of the newly eligible individuals who should benefit most from the ACA, however, are least prepared to realize those benefits as a result of low health literacy. They will face significant challenges understanding what coverage they are eligible for under the ACA, making informed choices about the best options for themselves and their families, and completing the enrollment process. Health Literacy Implications for Health Care Reform explores opportunities to advance health literacy in association with the implementation of health care reform. The report focuses on building partnerships to advance the field of health literacy by translating research findings into practical strategies for implementation, and on educating the public, press, and policymakers regarding issues of health literacy.