Literacy and health research

Low levels of literacy have been associated with poor health, poor understanding of treatment, greater use of health services, low adherence to treatment regimens, and poverty and unemployment. Considering that more than 40 per cent of Canadians fell into the two lowest categories of literacy in the 1994 International Literacy Survey, this is cause for concern. Recruited to BC from the University of Toronto, Dr. Irving Rootman is developing and implementing a research program on literacy and health in British Columbia. While the Canadian public health community has developed initiatives aimed at improving understanding of health information, there has been little research to measure the outcomes of these efforts. Dr. Rootman’s studies will assess the effectiveness of various approaches to improving health literacy in Canada and BC. His program will also provide training opportunities for graduate students, establish links between researchers across the country, and develop collaboration between researchers, health providers, policy makers and community members concerned about literacy and health.