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Health Literacy: Welcome


Welcome! I hope this guide can serve as a starting point for those who are looking to learn more about health literacy.  It is also a tool for health care providers looking to locate resources for improving communication with patients.  Additionally, this guide's resources for continuing education and training are useful for those who teach and evaluate health literacy.

Please note that comments are enabled in certain spots - please feel free to leave feedback and share other resources you are aware of.

This guide is a work in progress - check back regularly for updated information.

What is Health Literacy?


“The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” — Source: Healthy People 2010

Individuals must possess the skills to understand information and services and use them to make appropriate decisions about health. Similar to our traditional understanding of literacy, health literacy incorporates a range of abilities: to read, comprehend, and analyze information; decode instructions, symbols, charts, and diagrams; weigh risks and benefits; and, ultimately, make decisions and take action. The concept of health literacy extends to the materials, environments, and challenges specifically associated with disease prevention and health promotion.

According to Healthy People 2010, an individual is considered to be "health literate" when he or she possesses the skills to understand information and services and use them to make appropriate decisions about health.

Areas commonly associated with health literacy include:

  • Patient-physician communication
  • Drug labeling Medical instructions and medical compliance
  • Health information publications and other resources
  • Informed consent
  • Responding to medical and insurance forms
  • Giving patient history
  • Public health training
  • Assessments for allied professional programs, such as social work and speech-language pathology

This was excerpted from:

Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative