Health literacy refers to how well a person can get the health information and services that they need, and how well they understand them. It is also about using them to make good health decisions. It involves differences that people have in areas such as
- Access to information that they can understand
- Skills, such as finding that information, communicating with health care providers, living a healthy lifestyle, and managing a disease
- Knowledge of medical words, and of how their healthcare system works
- Abilities, such as physical or mental limitations
- Personal factors, such as age, education, language abilities, and culture
More than 90 million adults in the United States have low health literacy. It affects their ability to make health decisions. This can harm their health. They may have trouble managing chronic diseases, and leading a healthy lifestyle. They may go to the hospital more often, and have poorer health overall.
NIH: National Institutes of Health
- Health Literacy (National Institutes of Health)
- Health Literacy and Health Outcomes (Department of Health and Human Services)
- Health Literacy Basics (Department of Health and Human Services)
- JAMA Patient Page: Health Literacy (American Medical Association) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Learn about Health Literacy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Antibiotics Myths Still Common Among Parents (07/20/2015, HealthDay)
- Clear & Simple (National Institutes of Health)
- Current Over-the-Counter Medicine Label: Take a Look (Food and Drug Administration)
- How to Read Drug Labels (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health)
- Plain Language: Getting Started or Brushing Up (National Institutes of Health)
- Want to Be More Health Savvy? (Food and Drug Administration) Available in Spanish
Health Check Tools
- Question Builder: Be Prepared for Your Next Medical Appointment (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
- Understanding Medical Words: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine (National Library of Medicine)
Statistics and Research
- Health Literacy of America's Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (Department of Education)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Health Literacy (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Poor health literacy poses risks.
- Article: Health literacy: increasing pharmacological compliance.
- Article: The association of patients' oral health literacy and dental school...
- Health Literacy -- see more articles
- MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources -- see more articles
- Quick Guide to Health Literacy and Older Adults (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)