Evidence does not support clinical screening of literacy

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23(1):100-2. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0447-2. Epub 2007 Nov 9.


Limited health literacy is a significant risk factor for adverse health outcomes. Despite controversy, many health care professionals have called for routine clinical screening of patients' literacy skills. Whereas brief literacy screening tools exist that with further evaluation could potentially be used to detect limited literacy in clinical settings, no screening program for limited literacy has been shown to be effective. Yet there is a noted potential for harm, in the form of shame and alienation, which might be induced through clinical screening. There is fair evidence to suggest that possible harm outweighs any current benefits; therefore, clinical screening for literacy should not be recommended at this time.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Educational Status*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Physician-Patient Relations*