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Health Literacy: A Necessary Element for Achieving Health Equity

Robert A. Logan, National Library of Medicine; Winston F. Wong, Kaiser Permanente; Michael Villaire, Institute for Healthcare Advancement; Gem Daus, Health Resources and Services Administration; Terri Ann Parnell, Health Literacy Partners, Earnestine Willis, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Michael K. Paasche-Orlow, Boston University School of Medicine
National Academy of Medicine

July 24, 2015

A core aim for improving health care is to provide equitable care or “care that does not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socioeconomic status” (IOM, 2001). We believe that an essential ingredient in the effort to increase health equity and reduce health disparities is eliminating health literacy barriers. The challenge of aligning health care system demands and complexities with individual skills and abilities across the spectrum of public health and clinical delivery will be difficult, but critical in the effort to achieve health equity.

In this paper, we intend to demonstrate that the concepts of health literacy, health equity, and health disparities are connected, both in practice and in research.