The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, investigated 3,260 U.S. patients over 65 who were on medicare. It indicates that older adults with low literacy levels had a 50 per cent higher mortality rate compared to seniors with better literacy skills.
Great. You get old, you forget how to read, then you die.
"When patients can't read, they are not able to do the things necessary to stay healthy. They don't know how to take their medications correctly, they don't understand when to seek medical care, and they don't know how to care for their diseases."
The study does admit that:
"There are several possible mechanisms by which the association between literacy and mortality might occur."
The IALS study quoted on LearningWork blog states:
Many Canadians experience a significant loss of literacy skills during adulthood, and this loss appears to be concentrated in adults from lower socio-economic backgrounds...
Hmmm. I wonder if being from a lower socio-economic background has anything to do with the type of health care one gets.
Dr. Baker also says that more plain language is needed.
"We're not talking about dumbing down material. We're talking about using simple language the average person would understand."
In other words:
“...health literacy goes beyond the individual. It also depends upon the skills, preferences, and expectations of those health information providers: our doctors, nurses, administrators, home health workers, the media, and many others. "
For more about this patient-centred approach to health care and literacy, see the Centre for Literacy of Quebec health literacy project.