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Goal 1: Develop and Disseminate Health and Safety Information That Is Accurate, Accessible, and Actionable

Why this goal is important:

In today's communication-rich environment, people look for information about their health and safety to understand diagnoses, decide on treatments, make prevention decisions, and evaluate risks to their health. And we know that much of the health and safety information available is too technical, complex, and unclear about recommended actions. Safety information refers to information about avoiding injury, danger, or risk. The gap between the readability of written health information and the literacy skills of individuals is well-documented. The ways in which health and safety information are communicated to the public have a significant impact on health literacy and health outcomes. Health professionals have a responsibility, whether it is on forms, prescription bottles, patient brochures, information, etc. to ensure that information is accurate, accessible and actionable. The strategies and resources below will help achieve this goal.

For more information, please review the complete text of Goal 1 [PDF, 666KB] in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. See: Section 3, Goal 1.

Strategies by Stakeholders:

Strategies for Organizations and Individuals That Develop and Disseminate Health and Safety Information

  • Participate in ongoing training in health literacy that focuses on improving clear communication and information design practices
  • Involve members of the target population—including persons with limited health literacy—in planning, developing, implementing, disseminating, and evaluating health and safety information
  • Ensure that health and safety information is culturally and linguistically appropriate and motivating
  • Issue plain language guidance for the development of all public health and safety information
  • Include specific steps for taking action and aligning information with services and supports available in the community
  • Build networks with community and faith-based organizations, social service agencies, and nontraditional partners—such as foster care services, poison control centers, and literacy service providers— to deliver health and safety information to different points in the community
  • Leverage technology and electronic health tools to deliver health information and services at the time, in the place, and in the multiple formats people need and want
  • Ensure access to the Internet and devices that deliver health information services
  • Promote health literacy improvement efforts through professional and advocacy organizations
  • Create documents that demonstrate best practices in clear communication and information design
  • Test consumer health information and Web sites to ensure that consumers understand the information and can take appropriate actions

Strategies for Payers of Health Care Services

  • Review and analyze existing laws, policies, and regulations that make all types of health information (e.g., general health, safety, medication, health care coverage, financing, and informed consent) difficult to use
  • Ensure that all consumer health communication—including applications, benefits materials, rights and responsibilities, letters, and health and wellness information—incorporate health literacy principles
  • Develop campaigns that bring awareness to health literacy issues in health care organizations
  • Build partnerships with physicians as part of a multidisciplinary team that works to improve the health literacy skills of the care team and consumers
  • Develop metrics to assess organizational results from health literacy improvement efforts

Strategies for Print, Audiovisual, and Electronic Media

  • Include training on health reporting and health literacy in schools of journalism and public health
  • Report consistent, clear messages with action steps for health promotion and disease prevention
  • Use local, community, and ethnic media to raise awareness of health information and services in the community and overcome barriers to care
  • Tell stories about the impact of poor-quality health information and services on people and organizations in the community
  • Work with entertainment producers and writers to increase the amount of accurate health information in all mass media programming
  • Support and participate in media literacy and information literacy projects
  • Engage professional associations (e.g., the Association of Healthcare Journalists) and social media users (e.g., bloggers) in raising awareness of and action on health literacy issues
  • Use emerging technologies to reach all segments of society with accurate and actionable health information

Strategies for Those Responsible for Food, Drug, and Medical Device Production and Distribution

  • Standardize prescription drug labels and ensure that consumers understand such information
  • Standardize consumer-directed information about and ensure consumers' understanding of prescription drugs
  • Encourage industry and academia to develop and test innovative ways to improve over-the-counter (OTC) drug labels that will help to ensure safe and effective use
  • Ensure that instructions and risk and benefit information about medical devices for use by consumers are written in plain language and consumer-tested for usability
  • Increase the quantity and quality of consumer health information and decision-aids about foods and healthy eating where people shop and eat
  • Ensure that advertisements about medical devices, food, and prescription and OTC drugs are consistent with current public health and medical recommendations

Strategies for Employers

  • Develop workplace policies that increase and improve health information and services for employees and their families
  • Ensure that information and services are culturally and linguistically appropriate
  • Engage employees in evaluating health and wellness information
  • When selecting existing health and insurance information products, choose products that have been developed using health literacy principles and are culturally and linguistically appropriate
  • Consult local librarians to help build an appropriate collection of health and insurance information products and to connect with community resources
  • Negotiate with health insurers to provide employee-tested health information and ensure that the information is culturally and linguistically appropriate
  • Provide training, tools, and resources for employees to improve their health information-seeking and decision making skills


Available Resources for

Organizations and Individuals That Develop and Disseminate Health and Safety Information:

Print, Audiovisual, and Electronic Media:

Food, Drug, and Medical Device Production and Distribution:

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  • Page last reviewed: August 22, 2011
  • Page last updated: February 12, 2014 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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