Low Health Literacy Links to Healthcare Spending Confirmed
While they discovered higher levels of evidence on the above links, they found less or insufficient evidence or inconsistent results – sometimes because there were fewer studies or unadjusted analyses – on several other health behaviors. They found no relationship between literacy and Medicaid costs.
For example, there was less or insufficient evidence on whether people with low health literacy have poorer access to care, are less self-efficient, have more dental disease, and are less able to control their diabetes and its complications.
In an editorial published in the same issue, Cynthia Baur of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Nancy Ostrove of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote that Berkman's report "reinforces conventional wisdom that improving health literacy will help to improve outcomes."
They pointed out that without more research it remains unclear whether investments in improving health literacy will lead to healthcare savings. However, they said Berkman's work should prompt more research in this area.
Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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