Wisconsin Health Literacy (WHL) is a statewide organization raising awareness of the importance of health literacy and fostering better communication between health care consumers and health care providers. WHL is a division of Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., a nonprofit coalition representing a membership of 74 community-based literacy agencies.
What is health literacy?
The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic information and services needed to make appropriate decisions regarding their health."
Why is it so important?
Literacy skills are the strongest predictor of health status, more than age, income, employment status, education level or racial/ethnic group.
Health literacy was first measured on a national scale over a decade ago. The results revealed:
- Only 12 percent of Americans are proficient in health literacy and 93 million Americans 16 years or older (43 percent of the population) read at the two lowest literacy levels.
- Health literacy isn’t just an issue that affects people with limited English or low literacy skills; 88 percent of us are challenged by the health care system.