Michigan Association of Health Plans

We Have A Health Literacy Problem, And It’s Time To Face It Head-On

Nearly half of all Europeans have a “problematic” or worse level of health literacy. Only 12% of people in the U.S. have “proficient” health literacy, and 59% of adult Australians suffer from inadequate knowledge around their health.

Based on the populations of these three regions alone, a large swath of people are unable to make good decisions around their health. They don’t seek care when they need it, and they can’t live healthy lifestyles. Some will be susceptible to misinformation and fraud.

It’s long been a problem desperately in need of addressing. But the outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed what health illiteracy looks like at its worst.

Of the billions around the world with poor health literacy, some of the most afflicted are also the most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly.

A snapshot of the key contributors to health illiteracy shows this. Poor access to education, cultural barriers, limited English proficiency, impenetrable medical jargon, and disabilities such as cognitive decline and learning difficulties make the health literacy bracket incredibly broad.

When people limited in these ways don’t or can’t make good health decisions, it doesn’t just impact them and their families anymore — it affects all of us globally by weakening our collective immunity.

Put bluntly, we’ve known health illiteracy has been a problem for a long time. However, now we’re truly living in our digital bubbles and are feeling the global fallout of poor health literacy, it’s arguably never been a better time to face it head-on and make vast improvements.

This article was originally featured in Forbes, read more here.