Cancer Communication Research Center

Thoughts on Health Literacy


MazorThis week, I attended the American Public Health Association's annual meeting (APHA).  For the first time, the Medical Care section of APHA sponsored a session on health literacy, and it was both well attended and well received.  Dean Schillinger gave a brief summary of a recent Institute of Medicine report on characteristics of health literate organizations.  He spoke of the attributes and frameworks of a health literate organization.   The report with in-depth discussion of these can be found here, on pages 5-20.  The other presenters and I focused on health literacy as a patient characteristic.  I presented work our team has been doing on patient comprehension of spoken health messages.   Overall, this session further convinced me that if the increased attention to health literacy is to result in more effective communication, encourage high quality patient-centered care, and ultimately improve health, then we need to broaden our perspective to consider not only patients, clinicians and organizations but also the wider culture, including public education.  A solid secondary education with instruction in science and scientific reasoning seems an essential first step towards providing patients with the skills that they need in order to manage their health effectively today's information-dense environment.


Kathy Mazor

Co-Director, CCRC


Written by CCRC at 10:04




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