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March 20, 1996

Inadequate Functional Health Literacy

Author Affiliations

Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx, NY

JAMA. 1996;275(11):840. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530350022027

To the Editor.  —The article by Dr Williams and colleagues concluded that many hospital patients cannot perform the basic reading tasks required to function in the health care environment. Many of these patients may have learning disabilities that make it even more difficult for them to understand their medical conditions and comply with their physician's instructions.In a recent study of 280 adults who sought help from an adult literacy program, we2 found that the overwhelming majority were judged to have learning disabilities (a chronic, life-long condition resulting in a failure to learn to read, as well as a variety of other cognitive, language, perceptual, and academic deficits). Our findings indicate that such adults possess a constellation of problems and not simply an isolated reading deficit, including deficits in general information, oral language, memory and attention, auditory processing, visual perception and directionality, and social and emotional adjustment.Perhaps the