Health Literacy Resources

PUBLISHED: Nov 16, 2018
Relevant to: All Healthcare Organizations

Communication between and among human beings is complex in the simplest of environments. In the health care environment health literacy, defined as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions, becomes even more important and challenging. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals all grapple with how best to reach their patients most effectively.

According the National Institutes of Health (NIH) there has been significant research into the effort to make clear communication, plain language, and visual communication as effective as possible, and this research continues. We know from this research that there are some basic tenets with regards to health literacy:

  • The patient/family must never be blamed for not understanding information that has not been made clear to him or her, in a manner or format they can understand.
  • Everyone, no matter how educated, is at risk for misunderstanding health information if the issue is emotionally charged or complex.
  • In almost all cases, physicians and other health professionals, try to and believe they are, communicating accurate information.
  • In some cases, patients may believe they have understood directions, but may be embarrassed to ask questions to confirm their understanding.
  • Health care organizations and their systems and procedures have a significant role to play in ensuring understanding in the health care setting.
  • It is increasingly difficult for people to separate evidence-based information, especially online, from misleading ads and gimmicks.
  • The communication of “risk” in an effective and fair way continues to be a challenge for both the provider and the patient.
  • According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only about 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy. In other words, nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.

The NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have excellent resources related to health literacy. Follow the links below to access those resources. Included with today’s notice are some example patient education materials. Providing patients and families with written materials in easy to read formats is one of the many strategies to help improve health literacy.

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