Health Literacy

What is Health Literacy?
Medical concepts and language are very complex. People need easily understandable health information regardless of age, background or reading level. Health literacy is how well a person can obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services so that they can make appropriate health decision to:
  • Find information and services
  • Communicate their needs and preferences and respond to information and services
  • Process the meaning and usefulness of the information and services
  • Understand the choices, consequences and context of the information and services
  • Decide which information and services match their needs and preferences so they can act

Anyone who provides health information and services to others, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, or public health worker, also needs health literacy skills to:

  • Help people find information and services
  • Communicate about health and healthcare
  • Process what people are explicitly and implicitly asking for
  • Understand how to provide useful information and services
  • Decide which information and services work best for different situations and people so they can act

Resources to Develop Easy to Understand Health Communications

AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd edition

Helps to reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels.

CDC Resources

Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing-Provides tools and templates to help build your health communication or social marketing campaigns and programs.

Health Literacy Information Page-Provides an overview, literacy tests, planning, and training resources.

Health Literacy Web Site and Blog-Provides resources are for organizations that interact and communicate with people about health, including healthcare providers and schools.

National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy-Contains seven goals that will improve health literacy and strategies for achieving them US.Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2010)

General News Literacy

News Literacy Project  

The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit offering nonpartisan, independent programs that teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age. It has an educator site and student virtual check site called Checkology.  

Medline Resources

How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Communications-Provides guidelines and resources on developing and evaluating written materials and presentations, software readability programs, thesauri to find substitute words. (US Library of Medicine)

Non-Profit Advocacy Resources

Say Ah! Provides resources for best practices, through research, training and consulting. They have a page dedicated to health professionals and teachers.


Page updated 2/27/19