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Health problems tied to health literacy

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WASHINGTON, Sep 26, 2005 (UPI via COMTEX) -- A Washington, D.C., study finds painful health problems placing limits on daily activities are more common in older people with poor health literacy.

The Institute of Medicine reports 48 percent of U.S. adults have inadequate health literacy -- defined as the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information.

Michael Wolf of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Chicago's Northwestern University and colleagues used data from a survey of 2,923 Medicare enrollees in Cleveland, Houston, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale-Miami, Fla.

During a one-hour in-person interview, individuals' physical and mental health status were assessed and standardized mental and physical health test scores were determined. The average age of the participants was 71 years.

Approximately one third of those surveyed had marginal health literacy. The study found individuals with lower health literacy had significantly higher rates of certain chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure and arthritis.

"The magnitude of these associations were large and clinically important," the authors wrote.

The study is detailed in the Sept. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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