Every Library Reports Link Between Low Literacy and Negative Health Outcomes

Low health literacy levels account for hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on health care that would otherwise be unnecessary, with recent estimates settling around $236 billion. Unfortunately, low health literacy is common, difficult to spot, and negatively impacts health outcomes.
Libraries can be a front-line in the fight against low health literacy. In order to fund and utilize libraries and librarians in realizing health literacy goals, new policies must be created. That is why EveryLibrary Institute has commissioned a report on the effects of Low Health Literacy. The EveryLibrary Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Institute gifts fund our research, data, training, and public education efforts.
Authors Ellen Thieme and Christina Pryor review current issues with understanding and delivering health literacy services and make recommendations for changes to systems for better outcomes.
Why is the report important?
Studies show that a patient’s level of health literacy impacts their ability to:
Carry out their treatment plan
Fill out forms
Find providers and services
Share relevant health history
Understand risk and probability
As a result, those with low or no health literacy are more likely to:
Require emergency care or be hospitalized
Return to the emergency department after 2 weeks
Struggle to manage a chronic illness or disability
Miss needed tests and screenings
Underuse preventive health care
“Nearly 40% of the population suffers from low health literacy rates,” said John Chrastka, Executive Director of EveryLibrary Institute. “Our report shows that this problem frequently goes unnoticed. Now more than ever, our communities need their libraries to provide literacy services that will provide valuable assistance in access to healthcare.”
Libraries are particularly situated in communities and schools to help identify and support people at risk. Thieme and Pryor observe that “dedicated funding to libraries for literacy programs aiming to increase print, information, and health literacies is vital. Within these programs, curricula could be subject-focused – as opposed to the more general education sometimes seen in adult language and literacy initiatives – to most readily target the appropriate literacy in adult learners while respecting the demands of the bandwidth of adult learners.”
How can you access the report?
Policy makers, voters, and interested individuals can access EveryLibrary’s report through their website: https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/literacy_health_outcomes_report_2022
“This report has taken on a new relevance to our society, because of the ongoing COVID crisis,” said Chrastka. “Access to healthcare means the difference between life and death.”
The EveryLibrary Institute is a national 501c3 non-profit with a mission to support libraries and librarians in the United States and abroad. We partner with allied organizations including foundations, philanthropic organizations, associations, non-profits, and academic institutions to enhance the perception of libraries and librarianship through direct engagement with the public.