What is health literacy?
Health literacy refers to how well a person can find and understand the health information and services that they need. It is also about using the information and services to make good health decisions.
Which factors can affect health literacy?
Many different factors can affect a person's health literacy, including their
- Knowledge of medical words
- Understanding of how the health care system works
- Ability to communicate with health care providers
- Ability to find health information, which may require computer skills
- Reading, writing, and number skills
- Personal factors, such as age, income, education, language abilities, and culture
- Physical or mental limitations
Many of the same people who are at risk for limited health literacy also have health disparities. Health disparities are health differences between different groups of people. Some examples are how many people of a certain group get a specific disease or have health insurance. These groups may be based on age, race, gender, or other factors.
Why is health literacy important?
Health literacy is important because it can affect your ability to
- Make good decisions about your health
- Get appropriate medical care, including preventative care. Good preventative care may help you avoid getting certain diseases.
- Take your medicines correctly
- Manage a disease, especially a chronic disease
- Lead a healthy lifestyle
One thing that you can do is to make sure that you communicate well with your health care providers. If you don't understand something a provider tells you, ask them to explain it to you so that you understand. You can ask the provider to write down their instructions and to tell you what to do if you need more information.
- Be More Involved in Your Health Care: Tips for Patients (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
- Current Over-the-Counter Medicine Label: Take a Look (Food and Drug Administration)
- Making Decisions for Your Health: Getting the Info You Need (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- CDC Clear Communication Index (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Clear & Simple (National Institutes of Health)
- Federal Plain Language Guidelines (General Services Administration)
- Health Literacy Online: A Guide for Simplifying the User Experience (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources (National Library of Medicine) - MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources
- Plain Language: Getting Started or Brushing Up (National Institutes of Health)
- The Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
- Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)
Health Check Tools
- Question Builder: Be Prepared for Your Next Medical Appointment (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
Videos and Tutorials
- Understanding Medical Words: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine (National Library of Medicine)
Statistics and Research
- Health Literacy (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) - Articles, Papers, and Reports
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Health Literacy (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Socioeconomic status and family functioning influence oral health literacy among adolescents.
- Article: Evidence on factors influencing contraceptive use and sexual behavior among women...
- Article: Psychometric properties of Health Literacy in Dentistry scale in an elderly...
- Health Literacy -- see more articles
- MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources -- see more articles
- Kids' Medical Dictionary (Nemours Foundation)
- Figuring Out Health News (Nemours Foundation)