How health care systems can begin to address the challenge of limited literacy

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The growing literacy and health literature calls attention to the ways in which the U.S. health care system is inadequate and even unjust, not only for the estimated 90 million U.S. adults with limited literacy, but for many other users to the system. We have presented 3 overarching principles for health system transformation that focus on promoting productive interactions between patients and providers, reorganizing health care delivery, and embracing a community level and ecological perspective. We believe that instituting such changes could improve the quality of care not only for patients with limited literacy, but for all health care consumers, and could contribute to the development of a more “health literate” society.

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