At Health IQ we’re committed to making the 21st century the health literacy century. Just as reading literacy led to breathtaking advances in the last century, health literacy can dramatically improve individual lives in this century.
As our report shows, states with higher health literacy scores had lower rates of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Our report also showed a strong correlation between health literacy and health care costs, which are a serious challenge for individuals, families and society as a whole.
At Health IQ we’ve identified a new asset class we call health equity. Just as homeowners can build equity over time, focusing on diet, exercise, and improving one’s Health IQ or health literacy can build health equity. Studies show that the average retiree will need $280,000 just to pay for medical expenses. However, those with more health equity – and higher health literacy – will need less.
With health care and prescription drug costs rising, we also call on policymakers on all sides to be champions of health literacy in their states and communities.
Health literacy is not a liberal or conservative idea. It’s a true idea rooted in data and science that can dramatically improve people’s lives while strengthening our safety net. Medicare spending is expected to double over the next decade and will become insolvent in 2026, just seven years from now. Policymakers will need every tool at their disposal to confront rising health costs. Few will be more effective than health literacy.
Our nation’s health care and insurance challenges are daunting but the opportunities ahead are exciting. In this century we’ll see breakthroughs and advances we can’t imagine. Today, we’re seeing the growth of wearable technology and health management innovations like FitBit and Apple Health. These innovations have led to new interest and insights around what it means to be healthy. Yet, mere technology is not enough. Rates of chronic illnesses like obesity and diabetes continue to rise. We need to merge technology with education. What we might learn is exciting to contemplate but what we already know can transform lives. That’s why health literacy is so important.
This report sets out to establish health literacy as the cornerstone of an individual’s personal health equity.
Health IQ launched its Health Literacy Quiz and daily health quiz app in 2014. With over 10.2 million Health IQ Quizzes taken in the United States, our research supports that a high Health IQ score is correlated to lower rates of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Improving health literacy can translate to healthier people and lower healthcare costs.
Where It Matters
Median Health IQ by State
Hover over a state to see it’s median Health IQ
Lower Health IQ correlates to higher Medicare Rx costs
Tennessee Highest Cost
Health IQ Score: 134
Medicare Rx cost (per capita 65+): $3,911
Possible influencer: Tennessee is a state highly affected by the recent national opioid epidemic. As a public health concern, dealing with opioid addiction and its health issues comes at a cost, which may be a contributing factor to higher Medicare Rx costs.
North Dakota Lowest Cost
Health IQ Score: 153
Medicare Rx cost (per capita 65+): $1,412
Possible influencer: High Health IQ score may reflect smarter medication management and avoiding unnecessary prescription costs. Also, historically, North Dakota law has required pharmacies be locally owned; less pharmacy access may encourage out-of-state purchase, lowering North Dakota’s own Rx costs.
Higher Health IQ correlates to lower rates of high blood pressure
Health IQ Score: 114
High blood press. rate: 41.9%
Health IQ Score: 114
High blood press. rate: 39.0%
Health IQ Score: 110
High blood press. rate: 40.8%
Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi all fit the trend line of low Health IQ’s and high rates of blood pressure, demonstrating how closely aligned the lowest Health IQ scores are with the highest rates of high blood pressure. These states are also part of the “Stroke Belt” a region with higher incidence of stroke and death from stroke.
Higher Health IQ correlates to lower obesity rates
Iowa Highest Obesity, High IQ
Health IQ Score: 146 (above median)
Obesity Rate: 36.4% (4th highest)
Possible influencer: This score mismatch speaks to the possibility of a potential specific environmental factor. For example, in this highly agricultural state, researchers are considering the many health impacts of pesticide exposure, including obesity.
Hawaii Low Health IQ, Low Obesity
Health IQ Score: 136 (below median)
Obesity Rate: 23.8% (2nd lowest)
Possible influencer: Hawaii’s low rate of obesity may be due to heavy investment in island-wide health initiatives. These include programs to decrease smoking rates, increase physical activity and promote healthy eating.
Higher Health IQ correlates to lower diabetes rates
Alaska Low Diabetes, Low IQ
Health IQ Score: 142 (below median)
Diabetes Rate: 7.4% (lowest)
Possible influencer: Diabetes % is the number of adults who report being diagnosed by a health professional. However, a high percentage of adults in AK reported having not seen or talked to a doctor in the last 12 months possibly contributing to a lower rate of diagnosis.
Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, West Virginia, South Carolina
Health IQ Score: 110-128
Diabetes Rate: 13.4-14.2%
Possible influencer: MS, LA, AL, and WV also have the highest rates of obesity. MS, AL, LA, and SC are also states within the “Stroke Belt” – a region with higher incidence of stroke and death from stroke.
Created by the Best
Health IQ assembled a team of the nation’s leading medical, health, and fitness experts to create this cutting edge assessment.
What's in the Quiz
To arrive at these conclusions Health IQ analyzed its proprietary quiz data in contrast with published reports from both the public and private sector.
America's Health Rankings, United Health Foundation (2018)
Bowe, et al. Lancet Planetary Health (2018)
LaVerda et al. J Toxic Env Health (2015)
Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation