Agency: Only About 1 in 10 Adult Americans Are Health Literate

Just 12 percent of America's 228 million adults have the skills to manage their own health care proficiently, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

These skills, known collectively as health literacy, describe people's ability to obtain and use health information to make appropriate health care decisions. They include weighing the risks and benefits of different treatments, knowing how to calculate health insurance costs, and being able to fill out complex medical forms.

A person with poor health literacy may not get good results from their health care and increase the risks of medical errors.

A 2003 survey of health literacy skills classified adults into four categories: proficient, intermediate, basic, and below basic. In addition to the 12 percent deemed proficient, the survey found that

  • 53 percent had intermediate skills, such as being able to read instructions on a prescription label and determine the right time to take medication.
  • 22 percent had basic skills, such as being able to read a pamphlet and understand two reasons why a disease test might be appropriate despite a lack of symptoms.
  • 14 percent had below basic skills, meaning they could accomplish only simple tasks such understanding a set of short instructions or identifying what is permissible to drink before a medical test. Of these, 7 million were non-literate in English.

This AHRQ News & Numbers summary is based on data from the 2007 National Healthcare Disparities Report (http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/qrdr07.htm), which examines the disparities in Americans' access to and quality of health care, with breakdowns by race, ethnicity, income, and education.

Product Showcase

  • Full Line of Defense Against Combustible Dust Nilfisk

    Nilfisk provides a comprehensive range of industrial vacuums meticulously crafted to adhere to NFPA 652 housekeeping standards, essential for gathering combustible dust in Class I, Group D, and Class II, Groups E, F & G environments or non-classified settings. Our pneumatic vacuums are meticulously engineered to fulfill safety criteria for deployment in hazardous surroundings. Leveraging advanced filtration technology, Nilfisk ensures the secure capture of combustible materials scattered throughout your facility, ranging from fuels, solvents, and metal dust to flour, sugar, and pharmaceutical powders. 3

  • SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit

    The SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit is a single-use spot test designed for use in screening for cannabis compounds in any sample type or on any surface. The test is capable of identifying the presumed presence of cannabinoids in very small quantities, with a level of detection as little as 6 μg in mass. Learn more about the SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit and the rest of SwabTek surface drug testing solutions through the webinar titled "Everything You Want To Know About Surface Testing" 3

  • Matrix's OmniPro Vision AI Collision Avoidance System

    OmniPro Vision AI is a state-of-the-art collision avoidance system that features NIOSH award-winning Visual Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This highly accurate, powerful system identifies and alerts on pedestrians, vehicles and specified objects, ensuring safer facilities, mining operations and industrial sites. With its web-based cloud application, OmniPro Vision AI also logs and analyzes a wide range of data related to zone breach notifications. Operating without needing personal wearable devices or tags, OmniPro has visual and audible zone breach alerts for both operators and pedestrians. 3

Featured