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Social Determinants of Health & Health Literacy: What’s the Connection?

Health literacy is often overlooked when developing interventions to address social determinants of health (SDOH), but low health literacy can contribute to an individual’s overall health in a very similar manner. The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age in collaboration with the systems that are in place which mold the characteristics of an individual’s life. In the United States, low health literacy is linked to income, educational level, race, ethnicity, and age. Also, individuals with low health literacy have poor health outcomes, higher readmissions, longer hospital stays and increased costs. A focus on health literacy can help everyone manage their health and promote well-being. Healthcare providers should be prepared to use health literacy strategies and tools when providing patient care, and all individuals should have access to health literate resources.

Social Determinants of Health & Health Literacy

Approximately 20% of modifiable factors that contribute to a person’s overall health are medical services while approximately 80% are SDOH factors. SDOH are also mainly responsible for health inequities. A National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine discussion paper references various findings that highlight the association between health literacy and SDOH, and interventions that help improve health equity while positively impacting health outcomes. Health literacy skills can assist individuals with overcoming barriers to health and there are many opportunities to enhance these skills through verbal, written and environmental initiatives focused on clear communication. They can be helpful when accessing and understanding healthcare information and navigating the healthcare system.

When healthcare providers use health literacy strategies and health literate resources, it will foster alignment of patient-centered needs and address their SDOH. Let’s talk about how we can seamlessly integrate health literacy strategies throughout your SDOH initiatives. Health Literacy Partners provides a variety of offerings that can be tailored to your organization’s specific needs and goals. Take a look, choose what might be the best fit for your organization and reach out today to discuss how we can help.

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