During a time of economic uncertainty, the national discussion of health reform understandably focuses on insurance coverage and cost. To receive the greatest value for health care, it is important to focus on issues of quality and disparity, and the ability of individuals to make appropriate decisions based on basic health knowledge and services, or health literacy. As health care practitioners often see patients from diverse cultures who speak different languages and have a wide range of individual needs, practitioners must ensure all patients receive the same quality of care.
Three IOM bodies (the Forum on the Science of Health Care Quality Improvement and Implementation, the Roundtable on Health Disparities, and the Roundtable on Health Literacy) jointly convened a workshop to discuss these concerns. The workshop, "Toward Health Equity and Patient-Centeredness: Integrating Health Literacy, Disparities Reduction, and Quality Improvement", was held on May 12, 2008. During this workshop, speakers and participants explored how equity in care delivered and a focus on patients could be improved through concentration on eliminating health disparities and addressing issues of health literacy. For example, providing patients with appropriate medications in their primary languages and offering translation services can vastly improve the health care patients receive. Integrating these seemingly separate areas at the practitioner level was discussed, yielding discussions around resource management, the business case for addressing health literacy and reducing health disparities, cultural competency in the workforce, data collection, and communication. Participants also addressed national-level policy issues of integration, including data collection and measurement.