The Educational Testing Service (ETS) conducted a study of US health education – Literacy and Health in America. It was found that about 12% of the US adult population had minimal health knowledge and even simple tasks — determining the dose of an over-the-counter drug for a child or understanding the text of informed consent — caused them difficulty. About 7% of US citizens do not understand the contents of the instructions for drug use. Health literacy had a pronounced correlation with educational attainment, age, and race. Among older people, 50% have a basic literacy rate, 33% have a slightly higher baseline level. Citizens with additional sources of income, reading fiction and working with documents, as well as those who receive information not only on television, turned out to be more competent in health issues.
The low level of literacy in general, as well as literacy in health matters, can significantly affect a person’s state of health, the possibility of his personal, social and cultural development, as well as worsen his quality of life. In preparing a review of the literature on the current state of this problem, it was found that the bulk of the research was carried out at the initiative of the World Health Organization abroad, while there are very few domestic works on this topic.
Authors of scientific publications note that low competence of the population in health matters is often associated with unequal access to health care, therefore people with low health literacy are usually worse in health and have a higher risk of hospitalization. Health literacy skills require functionality to understand risk, understand conflicting information, make health-related decisions, understand complex health systems and “demand” changes when health systems, communities, and government policies and structures do not fully meet the needs of the citizen as a patient.
Competence in health matters forms people’s behavior and their choices, and finally, their health and well-being. Its low level leads to non-observance of a healthy lifestyle, risky behavior, a greater number of hospitalizations and an increase in health care costs. Inadequate health literacy is a major problem in all countries where this issue has been studied. Moreover, this is characteristic of both developed and developing countries. It is noted that improving health literacy is a process that lasts for long. Unfortunately, its results are not always satisfactory.