According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, nearly 90 million American adults test below a high school level for literacy skills (Kirsch, Jungeblut, Jenkins & Kolstad, 1993).Because most health materials are written at least at the high school level, this finding has major implications in terms of health care provision in this country (Helitzer, Hollis, Cotner & Oestreicher, 2009). This paper attempts to give an overview of the field of health literacy and includes: a brief background with current definitions; a description of screening and measurement tools; a discussion of aspects of limited literacy; the implications for quality health care; what role libraries might play; and areas of future research.

About Author

Mary Grace Flaherty is currently a doctoral candidate and IMLS fellow at Syracuse University’s iSchool. She received her MLS from the University of Maryland, and her MS in Applied Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Flaherty's research interests include consumer health information, public libraries, and health literacy.