Consequences of illiteracy far reaching

Freedom New Mexico

Here’s an angle the seemingly innumerable town hall meetings have yet to explore: Illiteracy can be hazardous to your health.

In 2004, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued a report saying that lower-than-average reading skills lead to $73 billion in unnecessary medical expenses every year.

It seems people who struggle to read can have trouble following the directions on a prescription bottle or understanding the instructions they receive when a hospital discharges them.

In fact, people with low literacy levels tend to wind up hospitalized more often because their doctors have doubts about their ability to take care of themselves without close supervision.

Additionally, people who don’t read well often have less awareness about general health issues. Research has found they are less likely to get mammograms, flu vaccines and other treatments.

Although health care seems like an area where the pain shows up more acutely, it’s only one of illiteracy’s many potential side effects. We can make a list that includes poverty, crime and lost business productivity before even getting to the emotional toll it takes on individuals and families.

The list runs so long, in fact, some advocates look at the problem from a global perspective.

On Tuesday, people around the world celebrated International Literacy Day. The reason for worldwide interest is simple. Things that affect a community’s people can affect the entire community. The effects of illiteracy manifest themselves all over the map — at home, at school, at work, and apparently at the doctor’s office too.

So, a more literate community translates into a healthier community. And the results will be felt far beyond the realm of physical well-being.

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