Chances are that some of your patients are among the tens of millions of individuals
in the United States who may have difficulty understanding and acting on health
information. Are any of these individuals in your practice? Here is how you can
What is the Prevalence Calculator?
The Prevalence Calculator is a tool that provides a rough estimate of the percentage
of patients in your practice that may have particular difficulty understanding medical
information and instructions. Specifically, the calculator estimates the percentage
of your patients that might have limited health literacy. Health literacy is the
ability to read, understand, and act on medical instructions and information.
Data for the Prevalence Calculator were drawn from the results from the health literacy
component of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), published by the
National Center for Education Statistics in 2006, and supplemented by other reports
in medical literature. The calculator uses a simple formula that takes into account
demographic characteristics of patients in your practice, and multiplies each demographic
variable by a factor, derived from NAAL and other sources, to determine the percentage
of your patients that may have limited literacy skills.
Note that the prevalence calculator is not a tool for determining whether an individual
patient has limited literacy skills. Rather, it is for use in assessing your overall
practice, to provide an estimate of the percentage of your patients who might have
difficulty understanding your instructions and other health information.
Why is the Prevalence Calculator important?
The NAAL tested a random sample of more than 19,000 American adults to assess their
skills at reading and understanding prose, documents, and basic computations related
to health care information. The result indicated more than a third of American adults
have health literacy skills at only a basic or below basic level. These individuals
have difficultly reading and interpreting frequently encountered health-related
text and documents, as well as difficulty performing everyday mathematical tasks,
even when a calculator is available to them.
Many of these individuals have difficulty understanding their physicians' advice,
reading medication labels, or understanding how to complete insurance forms and
other paperwork to get the medical or financial assistance that is available to
them. These individuals, many of whom are your patients, come from all walks of
life and from all ethnic groups and backgrounds.
Research has shown that limited health literacy is associated with adverse health
outcomes, high health care costs, and needless emergency department visits. As a
result, the need to provide clear health communication has moved to the forefront.
After using the calculator to determine that some of your patients may have limited
health literacy, you can use a number of tools to assist you in communicating more
effectively with patients. In fact, these communication tools can be used to improve
communication with ALL patients, not just those with limited literacy skills.
Where can I get the Prevalence Calculator?
The Prevalence Calculator is available
below, at no cost.
What can be done with the results?
For health care providers who have identified the need to improve their communication
with patients, Pfizer Inc and its partners have created a broad range of tools.
These tools will assist in communicating with patients in a manner that is attuned
to their level of understanding and their culture. These tools can be found
on the Internet at www.npsf.org/askme3
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