Health Communications & Literacy

The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as "the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions."

Limited health literacy affects 46% of the U.S. population, making it more common than hypertension or diabetes. A recent systematic review found that low health literacy is associated with a poorer healthcare and health outcomes, including lower receipt of preventive services, higher rates of medication non-adherence, poorer health status, and higher mortality rates. Researchers in our Center have conducted much of research establishing the links between low health literacy and disparities in health outcomes.

Our research has demonstrated the potential for new health information technologies to engage patients with limited health literacy in safety net settings and improve the patient-centeredness of care. We recognize that healthcare communication is affected not just by patients, but also by the capacities of health care teams and environments to engage patients effectively.

The UCSF Center for Vulnerable Population conducts translational, practice-based implementation research to improve healthcare delivery and health outcomes for patients across the spectrum of health literacy.

This program is directed by Dr. Dean Schillinger, one of the co-founders of CVP.