A person with poor health literacy may not get good results from their health care and increase the risks of medical errors.
A 2003 survey of health literacy skills classified adults into four categories: proficient, intermediate, basic and below basic. In addition to the 12 percent deemed proficient, the survey found that:
- 53 percent had intermediate skills, such as being able to read instructions on a prescription label and determine the right time to take medication.
- 22 percent had basic skills, such as being able to read a pamphlet and understand two reasons why a disease test might be appropriate despite a lack of symptoms.
- 14 percent had below basic skills, meaning they could accomplish only simple tasks such understanding a set of short instructions or identifying what is permissible to drink before a medical test. Of these, 7 million were non-literate in English.