(Purcell-Gates et al., 2000, 2002)7 In contrast to these findings, Murphy et al. (1996) reported no significant change in nutrition knowledge or self-reported consumption behaviors.

These findings are beginning to be incorporated into adult literacy teaching. For example, a handbook has been published for teachers who wish to begin to use more real-life texts and literacy activities while still teaching their students the skills of reading and writing (Jacobson et al., 2003). Teachers are encouraged to identify the types of life activities their students engage in that require more advanced reading skills. The domain of health and health maintenance is one obvious topic.

Within this type of instruction, teachers obtain typical health-related texts like prescription labels, consent forms, health history forms, and health-related Internet sites and construct lessons in which students learn not only how to decode and comprehend health-specific words but also what information is being conveyed by different texts and why it is important. The students are taught measurement terms, commonly used abbreviations, how to keep track of vaccinations and medications, and so on. Reports from existing programs for adult health literacy instruction have been positive (Doak et al., 1996). Building on students’ present needs and experiences may add to already existing programs to bring more relevancy and meaning to the instruction (Perkins, 1992; Purcell-Gates et al., 2000). Findings from national surveys indicate that both state directors of adult education programs and adult education teachers are interested in and supportive of an integration of literacy skill development and health-related tasks and content (Rudd and Moeykens, 1999; Rudd et al., 1999).

Finding 5-2 Opportunities for measuring literacy skill levels required for health knowledge and skills, and for the implementation of programs to increase learner’s skill levels, currently exist in adult education programs and provide promising models for expanding programs. Studies indicate a desire on the part of adult learners and adult education programs to form partnerships with health communities.


There are many demands for time and space in the curricula of health professional schools, including schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and public health. Further, continuing education efforts compete with thousands of topics for the attention of busy health-care providers. Regardless, improved education in health literacy is critical to the develop-


The reading and writing of more complex texts is associated with higher levels of literacy as defined by the NALS assessment.

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