Wayne State University

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Wayne State University

Public Relations

Media Report

January 31, 2014

Parents' illiteracy a challenge


Some Detroit parents struggle to understand doctors’ instructions, read prescription labels or measure the correct dosage of medication for their children, because an estimated 47 percent of adults are functionally illiterate. It’s impossible to say how much of a health risk illiteracy poses for Detroit children. Though studies have linked illiteracy to infant mortality in Third World countries, few such studies have been undertaken in the United States, where people are expected to be able to read and write. Wayne State University professor Daphne Ntiri, who is director of the WSU Literacy Outreach project and the Detroit Literacy Coalition, published a scholarly article on health illiteracy and the need for nurses and other medical professionals to be aware that not all of their patients can read. According to Ntiri, research has shown that patients with poor literacy skills often wait until they are very sick before seeking medical care, are less likely to participate in health promotion or disease prevention activities and have little knowledge of their health conditions or illnesses. “This behavior contributes to increased health care costs,” Ntiri said, adding that such patients often have trouble managing conditions like diabetes.


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