Consumer Education Initiatives in Financial and Health Literacy. Introduction


Consumer education regarding both financial and health decision making has been an important issue for many years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) initiated this project to identify the intersections of financial literacy and health literacy, the lessons each has to impart, and how and where each influences the other as a step toward improving understanding of this complex field. This study identifies current financial and health literacy strategies, initiatives, and programs conducted by HHS, selected agencies external to HHS, and selected private organizations. We structured the study to address the following research questions:

  1. Which programs involve consumer education components that focus on health literacy and financial literacy?
  2. Are there similarities between the consumer education competencies measured and promoted in health literacy initiatives and in human services financial education programs?
  3. Are any components of health literacy initiatives translatable to financial literacy initiatives in the human services arena, and conversely, are any components of financial literacy translatable to health literacy?
  4. Which financial and health literacy approaches have been developed for different groups, such as older adults, immigrants, and other non-native English speakers, and very low-income audiences?
  5. What behavioral change research has been done on these topics?
  6. What are the definitions of efficacy and success, and what specific behaviors do they require of consumers?
  7. What is the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of Federal financial literacy and health literacy initiatives?
  8. Are there examples of initiatives or literacy curriculums in programs that integrate health literacy and financial education?
  9. Are there any examples of, or opportunities for, coordination of consumer education initiatives across HHS operating divisions and, potentially, with other federal programs external to HHS?
  10. What lessons can other major financial and health literacy programs provide to support HHS initiatives for strengthening consumer education programs? What core competencies do they share with HHS programs, and what can we learn from their successes and failures?

This report is organized into six sections: an introduction, a description of the policy context, an explanation of investigative methods, findings from the literature review, findings from the interviews, and a discussion of next steps and implications for the future.

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