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Health Literacy has various definitions, but it is generally considered to be the ability to read, understand, and act on health care information. There is a large segment of the American public that can not take full advantage of our health care system due to limited literacy skills. In addition, printed health information is often provided in a manner that is inconsistent with the health literacy skill level of the intended audience.


1. What is Health Literacy?

2. Who has Health Literacy Problems?

3. The Impact of Low Health Literacy Skills on Annual Health Care Expenditures.

4. Health Literacy and Understanding Medical Information.

5. Health Communication and Cultural Diversity.


National Libraries of Medicine

Understanding Health Literacy and Its Barriers

World Education Health and Literacy Initiative

The Health and Literacy Compendium includes over 80 citations to print and Web materials concerning health and literacy. The materials listed include curricula, videos, readers, student-created materials, guides for developing and assessing low-literacy materials, and bibliographies and databases.


Health and Literacy Compendium

The health and literacy compendium provides web and print-based health materials for use with low-literacy adults. Included are resources about books, reports and journals on what low health literacy is, how to assess and develop plain language materials, and curricula for use in literacy classrooms and community settings.

The Ohio State University Medical Center

The goals of the Ohio State University Health Literacy Initiative (HLI) are to raise awareness in Ohio that health literacy is an important public health and health care issue. The web site contains reference material and training modules for those interested in health literacy.

Health and Literacy Special Collection

On this site you will find: Health Lessons and Activities; Easy-to-Read Health Information; Multilingual Health Information; and Health Literacy Research.

National Academy of Sciences

The health literacy section of this website contains a brief report on the April 2004 publication, AHealth Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion,@ and information on how to order the book.

Agency for Health Research & Quality

This government agency has a number of reports and documents in their Health Literacy and Cultural Competency section. Among them is the January 2004 evidence-based report, Literacy and Health Outcomes.

National Cancer Institute

The guideline, Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers provides an excellent step-by-step method for material development.


The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), promotes the use of plain language. To get the best health outcomes, health-related decisions should be based on clear and correct understanding of relevant health information and services.

American Medical Association Foundation

The AMA Foundation is working to raise awareness among health care providers about the link between health outcomes and literacy.

LINCS B Health and Literacy

This website is a service of the National Institute for Literacy and contains information on why health literacy and plain language materials are important, and how to make your community more health literate. A health care provider resources page has a list of other web sites with health literacy information and plain language handouts.

Partnership for Clear Health Communication

Ask Me3 is a solution-based initiative to improve health communication between patients and providers. Free materials can be ordered to help institute the program in a health setting.

Center for Health Care Strategies

This series of nine fact sheets was created for those who are designing patient education materials for consumers with low health literacy skills. The sheets define health literacy, describe its impact on health outcomes, provide strategies to prepare appropriate educational materials to assist low-literate consumers, and provide resources for additional health literacy information and publications.

Harvard School of Public Health

This site is designed for professionals in health and education who are interested in health literacy. It contains materials you may find useful for your work.

NetWellness: Consumer health information that's unbiased and credible from university health professionals. Ask university faculty questions. It's completely confidential, anonymous, unbiased, and free.