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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

STATEMENT BY TOMMY G. THOMPSON
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Regarding Reports on Literacy and Health Outcomes

I would like to congratulate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association for these important reports detailing the impact that low literacy and low health literacy have on the health of our nation's citizens. As we strive to provide the highest quality, safest health care possible, we must ensure that all Americans get the prevention and health information that they can understand and use to keep themselves and their families healthy. To that end, Surgeon General Richard Carmona has made it a priority to help Americans become more literate about health care and health in general, whether it is how to read a food label properly so they can make smart choices about what they eat, or how to talk to their doctors.

Health literacy can save lives, money and improve the health of millions of Americans. It goes to the core of our health care system. Improving the ability of Americans to obtain, process, and understand basic health information is essential to our strategy on prevention. The data in these reports indicate that we must do more to meet this challenge. This is more important than ever as we prepare to offer Medicare beneficiaries a drug discount card and comparative information on their medication choices. HHS will play a leadership role in using its many research, communication and programmatic activities to develop clear and understandable information for its beneficiaries.

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Last Revised: April 13, 2004