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Screening for health literacy is not the answer

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 05 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i3699
  1. Vanessa L Kronzer
  1. Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8054, Saint Louis, MO 63110, USA
  1. vkronzer{at}

It’s quicker and less stigmatizing to make all communication clearer

Engaging patients in treatment decisions is a fundamental component of patient centered care. Poor health literacy can complicate patients’ understanding of the information that is needed to make informed decisions about their care.

Worldwide, at least one in 10 adults lacks level 1 health literacy, or “the most basic information processing skills considered necessary to succeed in today’s world.”1 Nearly half of European adults have “inadequate” or “problematic” health literacy,2 and only 12% of US adults possess a “proficient” standard.3

Low health literacy is dangerous because it is associated with riskier behavior, greater hospitalization rates, and poorer health outcomes, including increased mortality.4 As a result, there has been a recent push …

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