“Health consumers face a number of challenges as they seek health information, including the complexity of the health systems, the rising burden of chronic disease, the need to engage as partners in their care, and the proliferation of consumer information available from numerous and diverse sources. Individuals are asked to assume new roles in seeking information, advocating for their rights and privacy, understanding responsibilities, measuring and monitoring their own health and that of their community, and making decision about insurance and options for care. Underlying these complex demands are the varying and sometimes inadequate levels of first, consumer knowledge and, second, skills for using and applying a wide range of health information.” Institute of Medicine, 2004 1 At least 14 % of Wisconsin’s adults read at the very lowest levels. 2 Nationally, the average American reads at the 8 th to 9 th grade level, and more than 90 million (47%) United States adults cannot acc-urately handle information from newspa-pers, advertisements, or forms. This prob-lem is felt acutely in health care, where nearly 50 % of all adults may have problems understanding prescriptions, appointment slips, informed consent documents, insurance forms, and health education materials. Limited health literacy is associated with more severe disease and more costly care. Higher costs result from more medication and treatment errors, more hospitalizations, longer hospital stays, more provider visits, and failure to obtain appropriate services. Studies suggest that scores of billions are lost nationally each year due to low literacy skills. Newly released landmark studies from the Institute of Medicine and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 3 detail how limits in health literacy affect health and the health care system. Health profes
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