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Recent Study Confirms Health Literacy’s Positive Impacts on Health Outcomes

Whether we are fighting a pandemic or the yearly flu, reducing hospital visits (and improving outcomes) is always a huge priority for our healthcare system.

What if there was a proven way to reduce these admissions?

Well, actually, there is! The solution: improved health literacy.

A recent study by the UnitedHealth Group proved (once again) that improving health literacy has a significant impact on improving patient outcomes.

Here’s a quick rundown of the study’s process and findings.1


The study focused on the US elderly population enrolled in Medicare. First, the researchers estimated population literacy levels using the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy results. Next, the researchers ranked each county based on its overall health literacy level. Then, they identified the counties with the highest and lowest literacy levels and evaluated key health outcomes.

Here's how these groups were defined in the study:

  • High health literacy counties: Only 15-27% of the population is predicted to have below basic health literacy (limited health literacy)
  • Low health literacy counties: 36-59% of the population is predicted to have below basic health literacy


US counties with the highest levels of health literacy had:

  • 31% more flu shots
  • 26% fewer avoidable hospitalizations
  • 18% fewer emergency department (ED) visits
  • 13% lower costs per beneficiary
Now, how do these figures translate into the financial impact? If all counties had high health literacy levels, Medicare programs could save $25.4 billion a year.

That’s a number worth paying attention to! And remember, this study only accounted for Medicare programs. Imagine the potential savings if we improved health literacy across the entire adult population.


Why Does This Matter to You?

Improving health literacy has far-reaching positive impacts, from huge societal savings to increasing the number of available hospital beds amid a pandemic. Our healthcare system has many barriers, and it’s up to the industry to start removing them.

Leveling Health breaks down these walls by teaching patients, caregivers, and their loved ones the basics of their condition and providing actionable tips so they can navigate their journey.

Let us help you, help your consumers.

For more details, check out the study for yourself: Health Literacy Key to Better Health Outcomes

  1. UnitedHealth Group. Health Literacy Key to Better Health Outcomes. UnitedHealth Group. https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/newsroom/research-reports/posts/health-literacy-research-462863.html. Published November 2, 2020. Accessed January 15, 2021.

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