Health Reform and Adult Basic Skills
Posted by Jennifer Vecchiarelli on August 11, 2017

The focus on mandated insurance and subsidies are critical issues. However, the recent debate at the federal level concerning health care and potential changes to the existing federal mandates have omitted one key element of any health care reform effort. One of the most substantial issues lost in this discussion is the vital link between good health care, insurance, and basic skills.

Significant national studies from over 10 years ago point to a clear link between poor health and low literacy. Various studies and program observations have proved that individuals at the lowest literacy levels will have the poorest overall health and will have trouble receiving good health care.

The 2006 National Center for Educational Statistics’ report The National Health Literacy of America’s Adults clearly displayed these correlations and underscored the importance of improving basic skills as a key element of improving overall health literacy and health of the lowest level learners.

Further research conducted by a team led by George Washington University professors estimated the overall average cost of low health literacy at between $106 and $238 billion annually with long-term effects at over $1.6 trillion. The majority of these adults with low health literacy correlate with our lowest literacy students.

These studies looked at the clinical implications as well as prevention and navigation of the system. These critical issues have very significant implications for the lowest educated individuals in our population.

While the nation grapples with the challenge of health care, our policymakers need to consider the implications of this and recognize how the overall health of low-level learners is affected.

The cost to the nation and to our students is too great to not include this consideration in the health care debate.


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