HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) defines health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.
Some factors which can affect health literacy are: understanding how the health care system works; knowledge of medical words; reading, writing, and number skills; ability to communicate with health care providers; ability to find health information, which may require computer skills; physical or mental limitations; and personal factors, such as education, language abilities, age, culture, and income.
A September 28, 2021 article from NC Policy Watch shows a comparison of the number of residents who lack basic literacy skills in different counties in NC and the percentage of residents in that same county who live below the poverty line.
Social determinants of health plays a role with health literacy. Health care access and quality helps people to receive timely, high-quality services, which is important for both physical and behavioral health services. This is really important in rural settings when appointments might not be easily accessed and this could hinder or improve communication depending on the relationship of the provider and the patient.
Another social determinants of health which can affect health literacy is education access and quality. If a child or adolescent has the stress of living in poverty, this can affect their brain development making it harder for them to succeed in school especially in reading and math. Consequently, the child or adolescent is less likely to graduate from high school. If a child or adolescent has access to high-quality educational opportunities, there is a stronger possibility for better health literacy; both physical and behavioral health outcomes.
Health literacy and acknowledging social determinants of health is something that can empower us as a community together.