Recognizing and overcoming inadequate health literacy, a barrier to care

Cleve Clin J Med. 2002 May;69(5):415-8. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.69.5.415.


Health literacy-the ability to understand and act on health information-is essential for high-quality care. Many people, especially the elderly, who bear the greatest burden of disease, have inadequate health literacy. This adversely affects their quality of care, and places increased cost burdens on society. Learning to recognize when a patient may have low literacy skills and understanding the common ways in which these people misinterpret medical information can help physicians develop strategies to improve patients' health literacy.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*