Today's Debate: What model will close the health literacy gap?

This big, big number is aimed at jump-starting policy change, just as the $100 billion every politician craves, estimated losses owing to a lack of medical automation, have created a consensus on behalf of electronic health records. What might this number create?

Health literacy from Craig LefebvrePfizer has put out a study today with a very scary number. $236 billion. (Picture from Craig Lefebvre's Social Marketing blog.)

That's the high end of their estimate for what a lack of health literacy costs the U.S. every year. The lower, more-often reported number, is $106 billion. A year.

There are many efforts underway to drop that number. Sites like WebMD,  HealthLine and Revolution Health on the Internet.  The hiring of "medical editors," usually doctors or former doctors, by all the major networks. Outreach projects from hospitals, schools, and the industry Pfizer's a part of.

Yet the number keeps growing. And the illiteracy gets worse:

  • Americans keep getting fatter.
  • Young Americans are constantly taking up smoking.
  • We over-use antibiotics and antibiotic cleaners.

We don't eat right, we don't get enough sleep, we over-medicate, we drink too much, we believe old wives' tales, and we have preachers giving health policy advice from the pulpit (as noted here yesterday).

Part of the problem is everyone who is shouting out advice has a credibility problem, an axe to grind, or something to sell. In a capitalistic system which distrusts the very concept of government, that is inevitable.

This big, big number is aimed at jump-starting policy change, just as the $100 billion every politician craves, estimated losses owing to a lack of medical automation, have created a consensus on behalf of electronic health records.

What might this number create?

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