Health literacy: universal precautions needed

J Allied Health. 2004 Summer;33(2):150-5.


Inadequate health literacy adversely affects health care outcomes and the quality of life of 90 million Americans and costs the health care system dollars 73 billion annually. Current strategies addressing inadequate health literacy primarily target physicians, nurses, and pharmacists but omit the allied health practitioners responsible for providing most patient services. The 2003 Coalition for Allied Health Leadership Health Literacy Project team undertook a survey of allied health professionals and educators to assess their awareness and needs concerning inadequate health literacy. Less than one third of all respondents were aware of the issues surrounding health literacy or that health literacy resources are available or had institutional policy or goals to address health literacy. Brochures and videos were identified most frequently as new resources needed to establish or increase the effectiveness of health literacy awareness programs. The results of this project indicated that there is substantial opportunity to increase awareness of the impact of health literacy, to develop and assess institutional policies toward health literacy, and to create new resources to promote health literacy within the allied health professions. Any approach to improving health literacy must be universal by involving all health care professionals and all patients in the intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Occupations*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Policy Making
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States