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Health Literacy for Interprofessional Education (IPE) eToolkit

Prevalence of Health Literacy in U.S. Adults

The most recent surveys of the prevalence of health literacy in U.S. adults have been conducted by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies developed under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is a large scale, cyclical study. The most recent data for the U.S. is from 2017. The next U.S. survey is scheduled for 2023.The surveys indicate the scope of the nation's health literacy problem and define the skills required to "obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions."

U.S. results from the PIAAC study are found below as well as two early, historical U.S. health literacy studies.

Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Country Notes: United States. Survey of Adult Skills First Results. 2012

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is home to the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The Assessment was conducted through a Survey administered in 24 countries in 2012 with another 9 countries added in 2014. It measures the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper. The County Notes for the U.S. sheds light on our most recent health literacy measures. Country Notes: United States. Survey of Adult Skills First Results. 2012.

 

Latest U.S. Results:  PIACC Results 2017

National Assessment of Adult Literacy 2003

Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin,Y., and Paulsen, C. (2006). The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006–483). U.S.Department of Education.Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. This study is good benchmark from which to gauge progress in our health literacy efforts. While this report is still highly quoted in the scientific literature as the most recent data of adult health literacy in the U.S., it's important to note the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data has supplanted it. It's important to note that NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) now partners with PIACC to conduct U.S. health literacy surveys.

 

Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Findings of the National Adult Literacy Survey 1992

Irwin S. Kirsch, Ann Jungeblut, Lynn Jenkins, and Andrew Kolstad. (1993). Adult Literacy in America: a first look at the findings of the National Adult Literacy Survey, (NCES 93275). U.S. Department of Education.

This landmark document is the published results of the first study to assess health literacy in the United States..  

Health Literacy Data Map

Want to see how health liteacy stacks up locally? Use the Health Literacy Data Map developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Please note: the data populating the map is from health literacy estimates created through data from 2010 U.S. Census and 2011 5-year American Community Surveys (ACS) summary files. The PIAAC study contains the most recent U.S. health literacy data.