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The impact of health literacy on cardiovascular disease

Authors Richard S Safeer, Catherine E Cooke, Jann Keenan

Published 15 December 2006 Volume 2006:2(4) Pages 457—464

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Richard S Safeer1, Catherine E Cooke2, Jann Keenan3

1CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Baltimore, MD, USA 2Pfizer, Inc., Ellicott City, MD, USA; 3Staying Healthy Media, Pikesville, MD, USA

Abstract: One’s ability to read, listen, and comprehend health information is a vital element of maintaining and improving health. However, 90 million people in the United States exhibit less than adequate health literacy skills. Given that more than 70 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases, it is certain that every physician’s practice is affected by health literacy issues. Those with language and cultural issues tend to be the most affected. Yet numerous studies find physicians do a poor job of assessing their patients’ health literacy skills. Patients are also unaware of the steps they should take, and how to take them, to improve their health and prevent complications. Numerous studies find, however, that outcomes can be improved with targeted patient education and improved physician communication skills that take into account patients’ health literacy levels. Unfortunately, the health care system is only beginning to recognize this problem and take action to overcome its negative impact. By improving the communication process with patients, physicians may be able to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Keywords: health literacy, cardiovascular disease, adherence.

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