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Medical News and Perspectives
February 15, 2012

Federal Agencies Poised to Help Improve Health Literacy in the United States

JAMA. 2012;307(7):653. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.128

Improving the health literacy of individuals in the United States appears to reduce preventable hospitalizations, lessen overuse of emergency care, and foster a healthier life. Recent federal policy initiatives may provide the tools and incentives for accelerating such improvement in health literacy, said health policy experts in an article appearing online January 18 in Health Affairs.

The authors, who are or were affiliated with various federal health agencies, suggest that 3 initiatives in 2010 brought health literacy concerns to a tipping point and will allow the issue to move from the margins of the health care delivery system into its mainstream (Koh HK et al. Health Aff [Millwood]10.1377/hlthaff.2011.1169 [published online January 18, 2012]). These initiatives include 2 laws—the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the Plain Writing Act of 2010—and the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, launched in 2010 by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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