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Health Literacy: An Update of Medical and Health Literature

Volume 7: Chapter Six
Rima E. Rudd with Jennie Epstein Anderson, Sarah Oppenheimer, and Charlotte Nath

In Chapter Six, Rima Ridd updates research done in the field of health literacy since she published a similar review in Volume 1 of the Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy in 1999. Health literacy has been defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions,” but subsequent definitions have highlighted the importance of considering “health literacy as an interaction between the demands of health systems and the skills of individuals.” As such, it should be an integral part of the healthcare agenda in the United States.

Rudd begins the chapter with a history of the field of health literacy and recent growth in the field. After a brief discussion of the methodology used to find the articles to be included, Rudd et al. detail the articles, which are grouped into four categories: a review of national reports; and research on text materials, nontext materials, and health outcomes. In addition to overviews of these four categories of research, Rudd et al. also briefly discuss studies of health numeracy (quantitative skills). They also review the health literacy research in other related disciplines, including public health, oral health, mental health, nursing, and pharmacology.

In their conclusion, Rudd et al. discuss the gains made in this growing field over the last few years and address gaps in the research that should be explored in the future. They note the improvements that have been made in the perspectives of health professionals based on current research, but highlight changes that still should be made.

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Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL