Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Low health literacy is associated with reduced use of preventive services, poorly managed chronic conditions, higher mortality, medication errors, misdiagnoses due to poor communication between providers and patients, low rates of treatment compliance, hospital readmissions, unnecessary emergency room visits, longer hospital stays, fragmented access to care, and poor responsiveness to public health emergencies.
Utilize these tools to aid in health literacy efforts.
Personal Health Literacy
Patients can use these resources from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to take an active role in their healthcare.
- Questions to ask the doctor before your visit.
- Question Builder: This resource can help create a list of questions to take to appointments if a patient is getting a checkup, talking about a problem or health condition, getting a prescription, or discussing a medical test or surgery.
- My Questions for This Visit: Patients can use this notecard to write down their top three questions to ask during a medical visit.
- Next Steps After Your Diagnosis: This resource offers advice for people with a variety of diseases or conditions and includes tips to help patients learn more about their specific problem and how it can be treated.
- Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe: This guide answers common questions about getting and taking medication and has helpful forms that will assist patients to keep track of information about those medications.
- How to Create a Pill Card: Patients, parents, or anyone who needs to keep track of their medicines can create an easy-to-use “pill card” using the instructions and sample clip art on this page.
- Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital: Providers can provide this guide to patients to help them keep track of the information they need to care for themselves when they leave the hospital.
Organizational Health Literacy
Plain language resources help keep the reader in mind as you make decisions about organizing your health information and selecting the most appropriate words.
- Everyday Words for Public Health Communication: Use this resource to reduce public health jargon. This tool lists terms that authors frequently use in public health materials and the terms’ common, everyday alternatives. The recommended alternatives come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Literacy Council and other agency communicators. You can also see real-life examples of complex sentences and how they were revised using common, everyday words.
- The Federal Plain Language Guidelines: The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a community of federal employees dedicated to the idea that citizens deserve clear communications from government. PLAIN developed and continues to revise The Federal Plain Language Guidelines to provide updated advice on clear communication.
- Plain Language at National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH has established the Clear Communication initiative that focuses on achieving health literacy objectives. Their page on plain language has information about training and links to plain language resources.
Digital Health Literacy
Digital health literacy is the ability to seek, find, understand and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem.
- Accessible Digital Content: Tips and Tricks: In this 2021 webinar recording from U.S. General Services Administration, Technology Transformation Services, the presenters bring attention to some of the common accessibility mistakes that people make when developing digital content, show how to fix them, and demonstrate how to create a product that’s accessible from the start.
- Health Literacy Online Guide: This guide from the Department of Health and Human Services is written for web designers, content specialists, and other public health communication professionals. The guide offers an overview of how to deliver online health information that is actionable and engaging, create a website that’s easy to use – particularly for people with limited literacy skills and limited experience using the web – and evaluate and improve your website with a user-centered design.
Numeracy is the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas to engage in and manage mathematical demands of a range of situations. These tools can support communication of numeric information.
- “Communicating Numbers to your Patients: A Reference Guide for Healthcare Providers”
- Ways to Assess Diabetes Health Numeracy and Literacy
- Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd Edition
- Use this tool to create visual representations of numeric information.