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Journal of the Korean Academy of Family Medicine 2005;26(6):313-317.
Published online June 10, 2005.
Health Literacy: Barrier to Optimal Health Care.
Sung Soo Kim, Sangyeoup Lee
1Department of Medical Sociology, Medical Education Unit, Pusan National University College of Medicine, Korea. saylee@pnu.edu
2Department of Family Medicine, Pusan National University Hospital, Busan, Korea.
The recent announcement by the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) took many by surprise. According to the KEDI, unlike general literacy rate, reading literacy rate (38%) among Koreans which is an individual's ability to understand the information we face on daily base such as directions on prescribed medication ranked at the bottom of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries. If we accept it as it is, it raises serious questions about Koreans' abilities to read, comprehend, and process necessary information required of functioning properly in the society. Furthermore since the information we get in the medical settings is usually more difficult to understand than other basic information we face in our daily lives, it may be assumed that health illiteracy among Koreans could be much higher and that the ramifications of it would be very much costly. Despite this seriousness of the reading illiteracy among Koreans, to the best of our knowledge, no attempts have been made to address and determine the prevalence of health illiteracy and relate it to the public health educational issue. More specifically, the effectiveness of health education materials has never been analyzed in this regard for the improvement of health education in Korea. The purpose of this article is to introduce a new concept of health literacy to the Korean public by reviewing the existing studies in the West and encourage researchers in the public health education field to look at the concept of health literacy as one of the possible strategies to design and develop more effective health education campaigns in Korea.
Key Words: literacy, health education, information, public health


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