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Brown ArrowHealth Literacy and Cultural Competence

Health Literacy is defined in the National Library of Medicine's Current Bibliographies in Medicine: Health Literacy as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions" (Selden, Zorn, Ratzan, Parker, 2000)

Culturally and linguistically appropriate services "are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and needs of diverse patients. The percentage of Americans who are racial and ethnic minorities and who speak a primary language other than English continues grow rapidly. Organizations are looking to meet the challenges of serving diverse communities and provide high quality services and care."(Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care, cited 6/17/2016)

A specialized search for published research in PubMed has been developed to help inform investigations of health literacy. An extensive list of health literacy resources is also featured on this website.

Search Queries Using NLM and DHHS Resources: Health Literacy and Cultural Competency

News: Health Literacy and Cultural Competence

  • NLM to Discontinue PubMed Health on October 31--17-MAY-2018 - (National Library of Medicine (NLM), NIH USA)  Details

    The National Library of Medicine has decided to discontinue PubMed Health effective October 31, 2018, as the majority of information it provides is available in more heavily used NLM resources, such as PubMed, Bookshelf, and MedlinePlus.

  • Tribal Nursing Home Best Practices: Cultural Sensitivity (March 2018) images/pdf.gif icon - (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), HHS)  Details

    Report describes the approaches to culturally sensitive care of four tribal long-term care facilities, outlining tips for providing person-centered care, honoring traditions, coordinating cultural activities, supporting elders' spiritual wellbeing, training staff to provide culturally sensitive care, and leveraging community support and partnerships to provide care rooted in culture and tradition.

Data, Tools, and Statistics

  • AHRQ Pharmacy Health Literacy Center - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    This set of tools was developed to assist pharmacists in providing patients with appropriate and clear information.

  • CAHPS Health Literacy Item Sets - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    The CAHPS Health Literacy Item Sets ask about providers' efforts to foster and improve the health literacy of patients.

  • Cultural and Linguistic Competency - (Office of Minority Health (OMH), HHS)  Details

    Resources on cultural competency and removing language and cultural barriers to health care for limited English-speaking populations.

  • Health Literacy Activities by State - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    This set of links provides information on local organizations and local government activities in the area of health literacy.

  • Health Literacy Data Map - (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Health Science Library USA)  Details

    Map provides health literacy data for neighborhoods throughout the U.S. based on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) data.

  • Health Literacy Online: A Guide for Simplifying the User Experience - (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), HHS)  Details

    Provides an overview of health literacy concepts and techniques for improving health literacy. Designed for government employees, grantees and contractors, and community partners working in healthcare and public health fields. The tools can be applied to healthcare delivery, policy, administration, communication, and education activities aimed at the public.

  • Health Literacy Research - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Site provides information and tools for planning research, identifying opportunities and barriers to improving health literacy in an organization, finding funding opportunities, and learning about current research on health literacy topics.

  • Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd Edition. - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    This toolkit is designed to assist primary care practices by providing a method to assess their services for health literacy considerations, raise awareness of the entire staff, and work on specific problem areas.

  • Health Literacy and Communication - (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), HHS)  Details

    The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) has pulled together key tools, research and reports, and resources for public health and health communication professionals.

  • Health Literate Care Model - (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), HHS)  Details

    The Health Literate Care Model is a tool that combines health literacy principles from the Universal Precautions Toolkit into the widely adopted Chronic Care Model and calls for health care providers to: approach all patients as if they are at risk of not understanding health information, employ a range of strategies for clear communication, and confirm that patients understand what providers are saying.

  • Know the Science - (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), NIH USA)  Details

    Initiative aiming to clarify and explain scientific topics related to health research. This effort features a variety of materials including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos to provide engaging, straightforward content for consumers to dive in and get to know the science.

  • National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy - (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), HHS)  Details

    The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multisector effort to improve health literacy.

  • Pubmed Health: Health Literacy - (National Library of Medicine (NLM), NIH USA)  Details

    PubMed Health provides access to reviews of clinical effectiveness research, in this case relevant to health information literacy.

  • Tracking CLAS - (Office of Minority Health (OMH), HHS)  Details

    This map tracks state and territorial efforts to promote or implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

Measurement Tools

  • Gunning-FOG Formula - (Iowa Department of Public Health)  Details

    This tool provides a calculation for assessing document readability.

  • Health Literacy Measurement Tools (Revised) - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    This website provides access to three health literacy assessment tools: "Short Assessment of Health Literacy-Spanish and English", "Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine-Short Form", and "Short Assessment of Health Literacy for Spanish Adults"

  • Health Literacy Tool Shed - (Boston University (BU))  Details

    The Health Literacy Tool Shed is an online database of health literacy measures. The site contains information about measures, including their psychometric properties, based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature.

  • Organization Assessment Tools - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Literacy assessment tools for pharmacy, universal precautions, environment are included in this collection.

  • Tool for Assessing Cultural Competence Training (TACCT) - (Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC))  Details

    PDF and Excel spreadsheet for this self-administered assessment tool aimed at medical schools, to examine the components of the medical school curriculum. Guidelines for use of the tool, as well as a detailed bibliography are available.

Grants, Fellowships, Funding

Guidelines, Journals, Other Publications

  • Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda (2016) - (National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM))  Details

    This publication offers a research agenda for science communicators and researchers seeking to apply research and fill gaps in knowledge about how to communicate effectively about science, focusing in particular on issues that are contentious in the public sphere.

  • Health Literacy - (National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM))  Details

    Information about health literacy including health literacy in a cultural context, the prevalence of low health literacy, and initiatives to improve patient communication.

  • Health Literacy Fact Sheets - (Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) USA)  Details

    This series of fact sheets was developed to assist clinicians, patient advocates, and other stakeholders in improving care for individuals with low health literacy.

  • Health Literacy: Past, Present, and Future: Workshop Summary (2015) - (National Academy of Medicine (NAM))  Details

    The results of a November 2014 workshop, this report commemorated the anniversary of the inauguration of the IOM Roundtable on Health Literacy with an examination of the past, present, and future of the field at a local, national and international level.

  • HealthReach - (National Library of Medicine (NLM), NIH USA)  Details

    Resource of quality multilingual, multicultural public health information for those working with or providing care to individuals with limited English proficiency.

  • Plain Language - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Provided on this website are tools aimed at assisting in the creation of jargon-free documents. Federal Guidelines from the Plain Language Action and Information Network are included.

  • TIP 59: Improving Cultural Competence - (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), HHS)  Details

    This guide helps professional care providers and administrators understand the role of culture in the delivery of mental health and substance use services. It describes cultural competence and discusses racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations.


  • Culture Clues - (University of Washington Medical Center)  Details

    Tip sheets to increase awareness about concepts and preferences of patients from diverse cultures.

  • Culture and Health Literacy Modules - (University of Minnesota, School of Public Health)  Details

    This free, online course discusses how inequalities in health information contribute to health disparities and what communities can do to close the gap and improve health literacy.

  • Find Training - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Courses on health literacy from CDC, as well as links to non-CDC courses.

  • Georgetown University Leadership Academy - (Georgetown University)  Details

    The Leadership Institute is a collaborative, multifaceted initiative with a goal to increase the number and capacity of leaders to advance and sustain cultural and linguistic competence and respond to the growing cultural diversity among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the United States, its territories, and tribal communities.

  • Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Free web-based course to educate public health professionals on the importance of health literacy and their role in providing health information and services and promoting public health literacy.

  • North Carolina Program on Health Literacy - (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC))  Details

    Provides an overview of health literacy, literacy assessment instruments, health communication and teaching aids, and the Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit.

  • Training from Organizations other than CDC - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Training materials from government, educational, and private sources are included on this CDC website. Some courses offer CE credits.

Meetings/ Conferences /Webinars

  • Health Communication Matters! Webinar Series - (University of California Berkeley, School of Public Health)  Details

    Ongoing webinar series helps participants in all walks of public health apply techniques to communicate effectively with consumers, health professionals, disenfranchised communities, and public health peers. Site also contains links to archived videos, slides, and resources.

Past Meetings

  • Dr. Rima Rudd on Health Literacy - (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS)  Details

    Dr. Rudd discusses the need to define and develop health literacy environments that support scientific principles, integrate health literacy findings and are conducive to efficacious action at an April 2015 conference.

  • Eisenberg Center Conference Series - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    Conference proceedings and white papers from past seminars are available. The conference discusses of state-of-the-art concepts in communication and medical decisionmaking.

Upcoming Meetings

Key Organizations

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Details

    AHRQ provides important resources aimed at improving health literacy as it pertains to prevention, healthy living, chronic disease management, patient-centered health care, cultural competence, and health disparities.

  • Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competency in Health Care - (Office of Minority Health (OMH), HHS)  Details

    The mission of OMH is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities and promote cultural competency, through the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence. OMH also supports the OMHRC Knowledge Center Library, an extensive searchable resource.

  • Clear Communication: A NIH Health Literacy Initiative - (National Institutes of Health (NIH), HHS)  Details

    The NIH Clear Communication Initiative focuses on tools and resources that address health literacy particularly as it relates to conveying scientific information and research: 1) Providing information in the form and with the content that is accessible to specific audiences based on cultural competence; and 2) Incorporating plain language approaches and new technologies.

  • Health Literacy Web Portal - (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS)  Details

    A collection of AHRQ resources, toolkits, and learning modules for a variety of health care professionals.

  • Health Literacy Workgroup - (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) USA)  Details

    The HHS Health Literacy Workgroup is comprised of all operating and most staff divisions under HHS, and has met regularly since 2003. The workgroup collaborates to ensure that improving health literacy remains a priority for HHS. The workgroup strives to create understandable and actionable health information, support and facilitate engaged and activated health consumers, and refresh the health literacy science base on a regular basis.

  • Health Literacy and the NICHD - (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH (NICHD))  Details

    This agency explores health processes, and examines the impact of disabilities, diseases, and variations on the lives of individuals. As part of its mission, it supports and conducts research aimed at increasing health literacy and numeracy.

  • Healthy People 2020: Health Communication and Health Information Technology Details

    The Healthy People 2020 goals provide a science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Among the goals are those aimed at 1)improving the health literacy of the population, and 2)increasing the proportion of persons who report that their health care providers have satisfactory communication skills.

  • National Center for Cultural Competence - (Georgetown University, National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC))  Details

    The National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) provides national leadership and contributes to the body of knowledge on cultural and linguistic competency within systems and organizations. Major emphasis is placed on translating evidence into policy and practice for programs and personnel concerned with health and mental health care delivery, administration, education and advocacy.

  • Office of Minority Health (OMH) - (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) USA)  Details

    The mission of the Office of Minority Health (OMH) is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities. Detailed information on cultural competency can be found on this site.

  • Roundtable on Health Literacy - (National Academy of Medicine (NAM))  Details

    This Roundtable is comprised of representatives from academia, industry, government, foundations, and associations, as well as from patient and consumer interests.

  • Think Cultural Health (TCH) - (Office of Minority Health (OMH), HHS)  Details

    Provides resources and tools to promote cultural and linguistic competency in health care including access to free and accredited continuing education programs.