Health Literacy for the Dental Professional
By Priscilla M. Flynn, RDH, MPH, DrPH
Determining the myriad factors that influence each patients’ general and oral health is no simple task. Health literacy is one of the factors that is increasingly linked to patient health outcomes. Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” The most recent national assessment of health literacy reported that more than one third of United States adults (36%) do not have the basic skills needed to effectively manage their health and navigate the health care system.1Individuals who have difficulty navigating the health care system often delay seeking care until disease is advanced, and may opt to visit the emergency department. The financial cost resulting from low health literacy is estimated at $75 billion.