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PUBLISHER Lisa Banket EDITOR Taren Grom CREATIVE DIRECTOR Marah Walsh CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Diane Hoffman Virginia Kirk Denise Myshko Kim Ribbink Deborah Ruriani Lynda Sears Copyright 2002 by PharmaLinx LLC, Titusville, NJ Printed in the U.S.A. Volume Two, Number One PharmaVoice is published eight times per year by PharmaLinx LLC, P.O.Box 327, Titusville, NJ 08560. Postmaster: Send address changes to PharmaVoice, P.O. Box 327, Titusville, NJ 08560. PharmaVoice Coverage and Distribution: Domestic subscriptions are available at $106 for one year (8 issues). Foreign subscriptions: 8 issues US$220. Contact PharmaVoice at P.O. Box 327, Titusville, NJ 08560. Call us at 609.730.0196 or FAX your order to 609.730.0197. Contributions: PharmaVoice is not responsible for unsolicited contributions of any type. Unless other wise agreed in writing, PharmaVoice retains all rights on material published in PharmaVoice for a period of six months after publication and reprint rights after that period expires. Email: email@example.com. Change of address: Please allow six weeks for achange of address. Send your new address along with your sub scription label to PharmaVoice, P.O. Box 327, Titusville, NJ 08560. Call us at 609.730.0196 or FAX your change to 609.730.0197. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. IMPORTANT NOTICE: The post office will not forward copies of this magazine. PharmaVoice is not responsi ble for replacing undelivered copies due to lack of or late notification of address change. Advertising in PharmaVoice: To advertise in Pharma Voice please contact our Advertising Department at P.O.Box 327, Titusville, NJ 08560, or telephone us at 609.730.0196. Email: email@example.com. www.pharmalinx.com THE FORUM FOR THE INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE Volume 2 . Number 1 Send your letters to feedback@pharma linx.com. Please include your name, title, company, and business phone number. Let ters chosen for publication may be edited for length and clarity. All submissions become the property of PharmaLinx LLC.
Letters Health illiteracy in the United States has become a national epidemic. There are no specific national statistics on health literacy, but it is esti m a t e d t h a t l o w health literacy skills increase annual healthcare expendi tures by $73 billion. According to the American Medical Association, health literacy refers to the set of skills needed to read, understand, and act on basic healthcare information. It is estimated that more than 90 million adults with low health liter acy skills have a limited ability to read and understand the instructions contained on prescriptions or labels on medicine bot tles, appointment slips, informedconsent documents, insurance forms, and health educational materials: 40 million to 44 million Americans, or about onequarter are functionally illiterate. Another 50 mil lion U.S. citizens have marginal literacy skills. This indicates that nearly half of the adult population in our country has inade quacies in reading or computation skills. Until relatively recently there has been a general lack of awareness about this problem within the healthcare community. TheAMAwith the help of pharmaceutical companies, the most proactive of which is Pfizer, is introducing initiatives to address low health literacy. The AMA is asking physicians to address the needs of this population in the office setting; medical practitioners rarely evaluate a patient’s ability to understand written information. People with low liter acy are likely to hide the problem because of shame, embarrassment, or fearfulness, increasing the burden on the physician. To gather more information about the relationship between health and literacy, the U.S. Department of Education and the AMA are working together to include questions in the National Adult Literacy Survey of 2002 on health status, health behaviors, and difficulties communicating with healthcare professionals. The financial impact upon the health care industry is staggering. It is estimated that $73 billion was spent on additional healthcare expenditures due to low health literacy skills — an estimated $30 billion was spent for the population that is func tionally illiterate plus $43 billion for the population that was marginally literate. Among adults who stayed overnight in a hospital in 1994, those with low health literacy skills averaged 6% more hospital visits, and stayed in the hospital nearly two days longer than adults with higher literacy skills. Among adults with at least one doctor visit in 1994, those with low health literacy skills had on average one more doctor visit than adults with higher health literacy skills. At the hospital level, one study found that 42% of patients who came in for care were unable to comprehend directions for taking medicine on an empty stomach; 26% could not understand information on an appointment slip; 60% could not under stand a consent form. To increase awareness of what some are calling a national health crisis, grass roots associations, the AMA, and pharmaceuti cal companies are beginning to address the problem of low health literacy through communitybased initiatives, physician programs, and other tactics. Taren Grom Editor H For the more than 40 milliion Americans who are functionally illiterate the basic instructions on most pill bottles go unread and therefore are not acted upon. 3 PharmaVOICE J a n u a r y / F e b r u a r y 2 0 02