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News & Press: Regulations & Policy

Section President Rises in Support of RC57-19 at HOD2019 - Health Literacy

Wednesday, June 12, 2019  
Posted by: APTA HHS Staff
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Proposed by the Texas Chapter, and presented on the floor of the House of Delegates by Rupal M. Patel, PT, PhD, delegate, Texas Chapter (E-mail:, Health Literacy is a critical issue we encounter in the home health setting on a daily basis.  

According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 adults in the US struggle to understand and use health information to manage their health and prevent disease when the information is unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled. Health literacy may not be related to years of education or general reading ability. A person who functions adequately at home or work may have marginal or inadequate literacy in a health care environment. Even people who read well and are comfortable using numbers can face health literacy issues when:
  • They aren’t familiar with medical terms or how their bodies work.
  • They have to interpret statistics and evaluate risks and benefits that affect their health and safety.
  • They are diagnosed with a serious illness and are scared and confused.
  • They have health conditions that require complicated self-care.
  • They are voting on an issue affecting the community’s health and relying on unfamiliar technical information.
Low health literacy increases costs to the healthcare system and results in higher than necessary morbidity, mortality, and health disparities. According to the report Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy, "Low health literacy is a major source of economic inefficiency in the U.S. healthcare system." The report estimates that the cost of low health literacy to the U.S. economy is between $106 billion to $238 billion annually. This represents between 7 percent and 17 percent of all personal health care expenditures. To put this in perspective, the cost represents an amount equal to the cost of insuring every one of the more than 47 million people who lacked coverage in the United States in 2006. Improving health communication reduces health care costs and increases the quality of health care.

Low health literacy is more prevalent among older adults, minority populations, those who have low socioeconomic status, and medically underserved people. Patients with low health literacy may have difficulty:
  • Locating providers and services
  • Filling out complex health forms
  • Sharing their medical history with providers
  • Seeking preventive health care
  • Knowing the connection between risky behaviors and health
  • Managing chronic health conditions
  • Understanding directions on medicines, home instructions

THE MOTION PASSED unanimously! Read the HHS President's 'rise in support' statement here.

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