The nation's leading sources of morbidity and health disparities (eg, preterm birth, obesity, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health disorders, and cancer) require an evidence-based approach to the delivery of effective preventive care across the life course (eg, prenatal care, primary preventive care, immunizations, physical activity, nutrition, smoking cessation, and early diagnostic screening). Health literacy may be a critical and modifiable factor for improving preventive care and reducing health disparities. Recent studies among adults have established an independent association between lower health literacy and poorer understanding of preventive care information and poor access to preventive care services. Children of parents with higher literacy skills are more likely to have better outcomes in child health promotion and disease prevention. Adult studies in disease prevention have suggested that addressing health literacy would be an efficacious strategy for reducing health disparities. Future initiatives to reduce child health inequities should include health-promotion strategies that meet the health literacy needs of children, adolescents, and their caregivers.
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