How Does Literacy Affect the Health of Canadians? (1998)

A Profile Paper

Literacy is a major variable influencing health in a variety of ways. This paper discusses the significant health impacts of literacy. It identifies why literacy is a health issue and thus is relevant to Health Canada and to its mandate: “helping the people of Canada maintain and improve their health”. The paper touches upon some of the mechanisms by which literacy affects health, and suggests some of the ways in which the health field can respond.

The primary purpose of this paper is to heighten awareness within Health Canada about the importance of literacy in relation to health. It is intended to serve as a resource paper, for use by Health Canada's partners and collaborators. This paper may serve as a tool to stimulate collaborative action with respect to planning, policy and program development.

This paper starts with a brief consideration of the actual literacy skills of Canadians. It then reviews the evidence which indicates the strong impact of literacy on health, no matter how health is defined or measured. The paper considers the mechanisms by which literacy affects health, pointing out that this is through a combination of both direct and especially indirect means. The paper indicates that literacy is closely related with other determinants of health which have been identified.

Finally, the paper provides some ideas about what the health field can do to address the issues of the impact of literacy on health. It suggests some action steps, as well as areas in which further research could be useful.

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APA citation
Burt Perrin. How Does Literacy Affect the Health of Canadians? 1998. Web. 6 Feb. 2023 <>
Burt Perrin (1998). How Does Literacy Affect the Health of Canadians?. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from
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