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Health Literacy

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) is the first large-scale national assessment in the United States to contain a component designed specifically to measure health literacy—the ability to use literacy skills to read and understand written health-related information encountered in everyday life. The NAAL health literacy component will establish a baseline against which to measure progress in health literacy in future assessments.

The NAAL health literacy report—The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy—provides first-hand information on the status of the health literacy of American adults age 16 and older. Results are reported in terms of the four literacy performance levels—Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient—with examples of the types of health literacy tasks that adults at each level may be able to perform.

Key Features

  • Reports on the health literacy skills of target audiences. 
  • Sheds light on the relationship between health literacy and background variables such as educational attainment, age, race/ethnicity, where adults get information about health issues, and health insurance coverage.
  • Examines how health literacy is related to prose, document, and quantitative literacy.
  • Provides information that may be useful in the development of effective policies and customized programs that address deficiencies in health literacy skills.
  • Guides the development of health information tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of target audiences.