Health Literacy Key to Better Health Outcomes

October 26, 2020 | 4 min Read

Why It Matters

Findings from new UnitedHealth Group research illustrate the importance of increasing health literacy as a key component in driving better health outcomes and improving health care affordability. Seniors — who use more health care services, have more chronic conditions, and take more medications compared to other age groups — benefit from increased health literacy levels because it helps them make informed decisions and enhances their health care experience. 

Health Literacy Across the U.S.

Education, languages spoken, health behaviors and health system characteristics all contribute to variations in health literacy levels across the U.S., according to the research. In the best performing counties only 15% to 27% of the population had limited health literacy, compared to 36% to 59% in the lowest performing counties.

Outcomes in Counties with High Health Literacy

On average, Medicare beneficiaries in counties with the highest health literacy levels experience better outcomes than those living in counties with the lowest health literacy levels, including:


more flu shots


fewer avoidable hospitalizations


fewer emergency department visits


lower costs per beneficiary


fewer hospital readmissions

Commitment to Health Literacy  

UnitedHealth Group has a long-standing commitment to improving health literacy in the communities we serve. Through a variety of initiatives, including our Health Literacy Innovations Program and the UnitedHealth Group Just Plain Clear® Glossary, we have taken steps to ensure health communications are more understandable and accessible to people of all health literacy levels.  

If all counties had high health literacy levels there could be …

•  670,000 additional Medicare beneficiaries receiving a flu shot each year. 
•  Nearly 1 million fewer Medicare hospital visits per year.
•  $25.4 billion in Medicare savings annually.
Read the Full Report

Improving Health Literacy Could Prevent Nearly 1 Million Hospital Visits and Save Over $25 Billion a Year

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Insights & Solutions

We are committed to helping create a modern, high-performing health system and driving distinguished societal returns by improving health care access and affordability, enhancing the health care experience and achieving better health outcomes for the individuals and organizations we are privileged to serve.

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