News Release

October 12, 2006

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Low Health Literacy Costs Connecticut Six Billion Dollars a Year in Additional Health Care Expenditures

UConn Researchers Offer Recommendations for Improvement

Fifteen percent of Connecticut residents have low health literacy which is costing the state more than six billion dollars in additional health care expenses, according to a new report by the UConn Graduate Program in Public Health. Details of the report and recommendations on how to improve the state’s health literacy will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in Room 2D of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

“Health literacy refers to a person’s ability to acquire, understand and use health information and services in order to make appropriate health decisions,” said Christine Torres, a graduate student in Public Health and one of 17 students who worked on the report. “People with low health literacy face greater risk of unnecessary illness, disability and even death.”

“One in five of us reads at or below a fifth grade level,” explained Public Health graduate student Kimberly Lewendon. “Remarkably, most health care materials are written for someone who reads at a tenth grade level, suggesting that much of the health care material given to patients is written at a level too advanced for them to fully understand.”

The consequences of low health literacy for the community are also substantial and serious. It forces an already overburdened health care system to treat preventable or advanced conditions that come with higher costs because of the need for complicated, extended care. The costs of care for persons with low health literacy are believed to be four times that of the general population.

“There would be considerable health care savings if health literacy were improved,” says graduate student Annamarie Beaulieu. “Investing upfront in patient and provider health literacy education will ultimately be more cost effective by reducing the expense of repeat treatments and delayed, more invasive and costly health care.”

Conference agenda:

8:30 a.m.
Light refreshments

9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Project Overview
David Gregorio, Ph.D., Director, UConn Graduate Program in Public Health
Sen. Toni Harp, Deputy President Pro Tempore, Connecticut General Assembly

9:20 a.m.
Video Clip from American Medical Association’s
Health Literacy Toolkit

9:25 a.m.
Improving Health Literacy in Connecticut - Report Summary
The Problem’s Scope: Christine Torres
Connecticut’s Capacity for Action: Kimberly Lewendon
Health Professions’ Education: John Shanley, M.D.
Mental Health Literacy: Sean Cronin

10:20 a.m.
Next Steps - Call for Action
Annamarie Beaulieu

Contact Laurie DeChello at 860-679-5467 or for more information.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

Note: News professionals are invited to visit the UConn Health Today news page ( for regularly updated news and feature stories, photos and media stories. News releases are archived at UConn Health news and information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.