Low health literacy is related to medication errors, device misuse, lower compliance and poor health but is traditionally not considered in marketing research studies. Based on studies conducted by members of the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group’s Health Literacy Initiative committee, this article aims to raise awareness of how health literacy could be used as a lever to improve public health, while challenging marketing researchers to consider health literacy as both a responsibility and an opportunity in their research designs. 

The Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) is an independent, non-profit trade association whose purpose is to stimulate the advancement of marketing research in the health care industry. PMRG serves U.S. and global end-client researchers and service providers representing pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical/surgical device and diagnostics. 

The PMRG Health Literacy Initiative (HLI) provides leaders in health care marketing research with the tools and understanding required to address the needs of all patients. It is a collaboration of members across the health care industry including manufacturers, payers and agency organizations. By providing education, resources and training, the PMRG HLI works to drive change within our industry and at the FDA. This change will ultimately reach and empower patients to take control of their own health and to better understand their conditions and treatments. 

This article presents: evidence of the negative impact of low health literacy on compliance; the challenge low health literacy presents to marketing research; results from two marketing research studies, one with health care practitioners, the other with patients; and an outline of marketing researchers’ responsibility and opportunity.

Patients’ well-being suffers with poor understanding of their health and available treatments. Device and medication misuse can...