As reported by The Hartford Courant, October 31, 2006.

Low-Literacy Levels Impede Health Care, Study Finds

By Hilary Waldman

It has long been understood that language barriers can impede good quality health care.

But speaking English does not always guarantee good care either.

A study released earlier this month contends that many people who are fluent in English cannot understand health information well enough to effectively manage their own health care.

The study by a group of graduate students from the University of Connecticut Health Center suggests that much written health-care information is too complex for most people to understand.

Most Connecticut residents read at an eighth-grade level and one in five read at a fifth-grade level, according to the report. But most health literature is written at a 10th-grade level.

People with limited reading ability frequently cannot understand a doctor's instructions or directions on prescription labels, says Annamarie Beaulieu, one of the study's authors. Low health literacy among English-speaking patients also contributes to poor health care and higher costs, she says.

The group recommends that health literature be written at no higher than a sixth-grade reading level and include pictures where possible. Prescription labels should use numerals instead of written words for dosing information.

"Language," Beaulieu says, "is at just too high a reading level."