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What is health literacy?

Health care can be confusing for all of us. Health literacy provides a framework to guide both health care professionals and community members to use health information and make informed decisions about their own, their family’s, their community’s, their nation’s, and the world’s health and wellbeing.

What we know about how people understand health

The majority of U.S. adults struggle to access, understand, and use health information

Barriers exist to
clear communication in every aspect of healthcare and affect anyone

Health literacy best practices can make health communication clear, and improve health

What we know
The challenge

The challenge

9 out of 10 U.S. adults struggle to access, understand, and use health information. This means that most adults have trouble:

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Taking the right amount of medicine at the right time

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Managing a chronic condition

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Making decisions about their treatment or care

The barriers

The barriers

Barriers to clear communication and access to quality care – including preventive care and treatment – exist everywhere, everyday, and can affect every person no matter their profession, level of education, or income.

Some barriers include:

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Health education materials are not clear, effective, and engaging

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Healthcare providers use complex technical terms and give vague instructions

Quality healthcare services are not accessible to everyone

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The solution

The solution

Health literacy plays an important role in every aspect of health and wellbeing. It ranges from individual decisions to complex interactions with health professionals, and on to the design of health care systems, and health policies.

Applying evidence-based health literacy strategies to every aspect of health care and the clinical trial process can help break those barriers down.

Defining health literacy

Today, it’s increasingly accepted that health literacy is not a set of skills that people may or may not have and is instead a multidimensional concept influenced by how healthcare systems operate, how healthcare professionals share information, and how patients understand information.

Our approach

Health literacy is more than replacing jargon with words everyone understands or teaching patients to ask questions of health care professionals when receiving care. HLM weaves health literacy into all our partnerships, programs, and products to help individuals and populations improve their health and to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of health systems. Our goal is to help individuals, communities, and nations make informed decisions about health and increase the health and well-being of all people. 

Evidence-based strategies

Every move we make is backed by the latest evidence in health literacy, health communication, plain language, numeracy, design, public health, and health care.

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Our proprietary health literacy review checklist assess 103 evidence-based principles

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We prioritize audience research and testing to inform content and design

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We use our combined 100+ years of diverse education and experience to create innovative work

Engaging content

We pride ourselves not only in the evidence behind the work that we do, but also in creating content that is just as engaging as it is effective. Learn more about health literacy and get a taste of what we can do by viewing our "Health literacy in 1 minute or less" video series and our "What you need to know" infographics.

Happy Health Literacy Month
Health literacy in 1 minute or less: What is health literacy?
Health literacy in 1 minute or less: Universal Precautions

What you need to know infographics

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