Health literacy, or understanding the medical narrative, is a problem for a majority of Americans. When compounded with numeric literacy, understanding numbers, ratios and rates -- the daily litany that has accompanied COVID-19 news conferences -- it's estimated that 8 out of 10 Americans just don’t get it.
For all the regulation of what's written in direct-to-consumer health ads (and for all the hand-wringing about informed consent), there's little said about what patients understand. As it turns out, health literacy is a problem. And those with the biggest problems are looking for help in all the wrong places.