The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. This is also the definition that was included in Healthy People 2010 and 2020.
Healthy People 2030 addresses both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy and provides the following definitions:
- Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
- Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
The new definitions:
- Emphasize people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it
- Focus on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones
- Incorporate a public health perspective
- Acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy
See article “Healthy People 2030 Health Literacy Definition Tells Organizations: Make Information and Services Easy to Find, Understand, and Use”
Why is Health Literacy Important?
- Almost half of adults in the U.S. have a hard time reading, understanding, and acting on health information.
- This results in more repeat visits to the hospital and to the ER and less understanding on how to prevent illness.
- Adults with low literacy end up paying four times more for their health care over time.
- Hospitals and other health care services spend $106 to $203 billion more on adults with low literacy.
- People of any age, race, income level, or education level can have a hard time understanding health information.
For these and many other reasons, we created Ohio Health Literacy Partners (OHLP) in 2013.