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Health Literacy

An Economic Perspective

At a glance

  • Project team : Prof. Dr. , ,
  • Project budget : CHF 80'000
  • Project status : completed
  • Funding partner : Foundation (Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz GFCH), Third party (MSD Merck Sharp & Dohme AG)
  • Project partner :
  • Contact person : Simon Wieser



Objectives:To summarize evidence about (1) the costs of limited health literacy (HL) and (2) the cost-effectiveness of interventions to improve limited HL.

Methods: We performed a systematic review searching electronic databases and additional information resources. We included observational studies and interventional studies with HL-outcomes. We included populations at high risk for low HL and patients with (1) diabetes mellitus or (2) hyperlipidemia.

Results: We retrieved 2,340 papers and included 10 studies for analysis. The prevalence of limited HL is considerable (range 34–59%). On the health system level, the additional costs of limited HL range from 3 to 5% of the total health care cost per year. On the patient level, the additional expenditures per year per person with limited HL compared to persons with adequate HL range from US $143 to 7,798. Data on the cost-effectiveness of interventions to improve limited HL are scarce.

Conclusion: The costs of limited HL may be substantial, but few studies were retrieved and the results are heterogeneous.