Literacy and Health Outcomes Report Released

Libraries can be a front-line in the fight against low health literacy. In order to fund and utilize libraries and librarians in realizing health literacy goals, new policies must be created. That is why the EveryLibrary Institute has commissioned a new report on the effects of Low Health Literacy. 

Low health literacy levels account for hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on health care that would otherwise be unnecessary, with recent estimates settling around $236 billion. Unfortunately, low health literacy is common, difficult to spot, and negatively impacts health outcomes. In the report "Literacy and Health Outcomes Report: A Policy Roadmap for Library Leaders", authors Ellen Thieme and Christina Pryor review current issues with understanding and delivering health literacy services and make recommendations for changes to systems for better outcomes.

Why is the report important?

Studies show that a patient’s level of health literacy impacts their ability to:

  • Carry out their treatment plan
  • Fill out forms
  • Find providers and services
  • Share relevant health history
  • Understand risk and probability

As a result, those with low or no health literacy are more likely to:

  • Require emergency care or be hospitalized
  • Return to the emergency department after 2 weeks
  • Struggle to manage a chronic illness or disability
  • Miss needed tests and screenings
  • Underuse preventive health care

Libraries are particularly situated in communities and schools to help identify and support people at risk. Thieme and Pryor observe that “dedicated funding to libraries for literacy programs aiming to increase print, information, and health literacies is vital. Within these programs, curricula could be subject-focused - as opposed to the more general education sometimes seen in adult language and literacy initiatives - to most readily target the appropriate literacy in adult learners while respecting the demands of the bandwidth of adult learners.”

Policymakers, voters, and interested individuals can download and access "Literacy and Health Outcomes Report: A Policy Roadmap for Library Leaders" at All research published by the EveryLibrary Institute is available for free and open-access. To download the report simply fill out the form.