Health Literacy (MCL)

Although not specifically addressed in the IALS or IALS, health literacy is another area of literacy that has been studied.

Health Literacy measures how well you understand and use information related to the following.  For example, you use health literacy skills when you:

  • Follow instructions on how to take a medication
  • health promotion
  • health protection
  • disease prevention
  • health care and maintenance
  • accessing needed services
  • navigating the health-care system
  • Read a brochure to determine your medical benefits
  • Use information on food or product labels to calculate nutritional content
  • See a notice and determine whether or not you should have a screening or inoculation
  • Fill out a benefit application or patient history form
  • Read an article about diet or nutrition
  • Read a letter summarizing medical test results

Studies show that literacy is an important key to health.

High literacy, a good income and good health are connected in many ways:

  • The higher the income Canadians have, the healthier they say we are.
  • People with higher literacy skills are more likely to eat a healthy diet, have good mental health and have ways to prevent
  • People with higher literacy skills find good jobs with good wages more easily than
  • People with higher literacy skills have less stress than those
  • People with higher literacy skills are able to find good parenting information and help their young children
  • People with lower literacy skills are more likely to work in unsafe or dangerous
  • Lower literacy skills are connected with dying younger, having more accidents and more diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and

Low literacy affects getting health services and health information

  • People with lower literacy skills may find it hard to read and understand health information unless it is written simply and talks about health problems that they can relate to.
  • Less literate people may not have health knowledge and health words to understand instructions and information, either spoken or written.
  • People who do not speak English or French as their main language may face literacy barriers.
  • People with low literacy may not know about services they can They often feel powerless and scared when they are in health clinics, or hospitals; and when they speak to doctors or other health workers.

Low literacy increases costs to our healthcare system

  • People with literacy barriers often have poorer overall
  • People with literacy barriers may make mistakes with their
  • People with literacy barriers may not understand health information and may need emergency care more
  • People with literacy barriers often wait longer to seek medical help so health problems may become worse and cost more to treat.
adapted in 2005 from information provided by Movement for Canadian Literacy