The challenge

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.

94% of patient education materials are written beyond most people’s ability to fully understand

50% of potentially preventable hospital readmissions are linked to early discharge, incomplete provider referrals, and lack of discharge discussions

70% of adverse drug events are a result of taking or giving medication the wrong way because people don’t fully understand the instructions

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.


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

Definitions of health literacy have dramatically evolved since the World Health Organization proposed what many consider the first definition in 1998.


Most early definitions of health literacy proposed that it was a set of skills people lacked and placed the burden of understanding complicated health information on them alone. This approach, which is still active today, assumes that healthcare professionals are fully equipped with health literacy skills.


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. To reflect this evolution, in 2016, the National Institute of Medicine published "Considerations for a New Definition of Health Literacy," which members of our team co-authored.

At HLM we believe that health literacy plays an important role in every aspect of health and wellbeing. We know that health literacy ranges from individual decisions to complex interactions with health professionals, and on to the design of health care systems, and health policies.  

Our team has authored many publications on health literacy – from community wellness to social media. Interested in reading more? Check out our publications page.


Our approach to health literacy 

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. 

There is a large demand for effective and evidence-based health literacy tools. Health Literacy Media addresses the entire scope of health literacy through our work every day. While there is still a lot to learn in the health literacy field, we are aware of no other organization that similarly addresses the entire depth and breadth of health literacy.

Additionally, Health Literacy Media is constantly engaged not only in using the evidence-based tools that exist, we are conducting research around the world to develop and test new and improved tools, approaches, and understanding of health literacy.


​Are you looking for health literacy tools and approaches that you can use in your own work? Visit our tools you can use page. We have stocked it with videos about preventive care, an easy-to-use measure of health literacy, fotonovelas, and more!


We’ve also compiled a list of other health literacy resources you might find useful,
such as “” and the “Roundtable on Health Literacy.” Take a look at our resources page.