An updated report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) finds that many English-speaking adults experience difficulties understanding and using basic health information. Health Literacy Interventions and Outcomes: An Updated Systematic Review, which examines the literature since 2004, also finds growing evidence that suggests differences in health literacy levels are related to racial and ethnic disparities. The complete report in PDF form can be accessed online at the AHRQ website:
The questions guiding the review included the relationship between health literacy and use of health services, health outcomes, costs of care and health disparities. The review also encompassed studies of interventions.
Based on searches of multiple bibliographic databases, the reviewers identified approximately 3,500 unduplicated records of relevant publications. Among these, 140 were rated either good or fair in terms of strength of evidence. Among opportunities for future research, the report mentions “Testing novel approaches to increase motivation; improved techniques for delivering written, oral, or numerical information; and ‘work-around’ interventions such as patient advocates.”
Director of South Texas Regional Information Services