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An Overview of Medical and Public Health Literature Addressing Literacy Issues: An Annotated Bibliography

Rima E. Rudd, Tayla Colton, and Robin Schacht
Harvard School of Public Health

January 2000

The numerous explorations of the links between literacy and health, and of the importance of literacy to health, are of interest to practitioners and researchers in adult education and in health education.  Researchers in adult education are interested in the impact of health on learning and retention.  In addition, recent studies indicate that teachers value health as a subject of study that draws learners’ interest and as a vehicle for teaching basic skills.  Research findings are offering insight into literacy skills needed for navigating health care environments and for managing health problems.  Such findings may enrich curriculum development efforts for adult learners.  At the same time, research findings may lead to modifications in patient protocols, educational materials, and health related forms. 

Increasingly, limited literacy is being cited as an inhibiting factor in accessing health information such as patient education materials, informed consent, discharge documents, and directions for self-care or medication.  This report presents results from a computer assisted search of the medical and public health literature addressing literacy issues in health care and in health promotion education published between 1990 and 1999.  Following a brief introduction on the subject of health and literacy, the literature search methods are described and the choice of citation categories is discussed.  Finally, an annotated bibliography is presented for articles meeting the inclusion requirements. 

This bibliography includes 241 citations which are arranged in the following categorical groups: 

Full Report Available

To receive a copy of the full report, send a request indicating the report number or title
along with a check or money order in the amount of $10, payable to World Education, to:

Caye Caplan
NCSALL Reports
World Education
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Boston, MA 02210
or call: (617) 482-9485