Committee Opinion No. 676 Summary: Health Literacy to Promote Quality of Care

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Abstract

Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions. Multiple factors affect a patient’s understanding of health information, including cultural factors, a physician’s health know- ledge and communication skills, the demands of the situation, the environment in which the health information is being conveyed, and time constraints. The responsibility for recognizing and addressing the problem of limited health literacy lies with all entities in the health care system, from primary care physicians to community-based or public health organizations. Because of the potential effect of health literacy on patient outcomes, obstetrician–gynecologists should take the appropriate steps to ensure that they communicate in an understandable manner so patients can make informed decisions about their health care.

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