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Health Literacy

This guide includes information on health literacy, patient education, and health literacy resources for health professionals.

Health Literacy

patients with low health literacy

Definition of Health Literacy

Health literacy is the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.  

- Healthy People 2010

Plain language is a strategy for making written and oral information easier to understand. It is one important tool for improving health literacy. Key elements of Plain Language include:

  • Organizing information so that the most important points come first;
  • Breaking complex information into understandable chunks;
  • Using simple language and defining technical terms; and
  • Using the active voice.

Clear & Simple

For several years, a publication of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), “Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers,” served as a trans-NIH document dedicated to the subject of health literacy.

Clear & Simple outlines a process for developing publications for people with limited-literacy skills and features proven principles and a discussion of real life issues that individuals developing low-literacy materials face.

Cultural Respect is a strategy that enables organizations to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. Developing and implementing a framework of cultural competence in health systems is an extended process that ultimately serves to reduce health disparities and improve access to high-quality health care.

Overview of Health Literacy

Health Literacy Initiatives & Groups

Healthy People 2020