Health literacy and asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Apr;129(4):935-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.01.040. Epub 2012 Feb 11.


The report "Healthy people" from the US Department of Health and Human Services defines health literacy (HL) as follows: "The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." The same report identifies asthma as a public health problem of high priority. Unfortunately, impaired HL is prevalent in our society, and patients with low HL and asthma face multiple challenges as they attempt to manage their disease. Indeed, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program's current guidelines require patients to have considerable HL and self-management skills. Numerous studies have linked inadequate literacy with poor health outcomes. Unlike many sociodemographic variables, HL can potentially be addressed in the health care setting. The purpose of this review is to raise awareness of the problem, summarize the current evidence linking HL and asthma, and offer strategies to strengthen the communication between patients and health care providers to decrease asthma health disparities. In addition, we discuss potential future directions for research in this field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Public Health / education