Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Understanding Health Literacy

Who Does Limited Health Literacy Affect?

People of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels can find it difficult to obtain, communicate, process and understand health information and services. Literacy skills are only a part of health literacy. Even people with strong reading and writing skills can face health literacy challenges when

  • They are not familiar with medical terms or how their bodies work.
  • They have to interpret or calculate numbers or risks that could have immediate effects on their health and safety.
  • They are diagnosed with a serious illness and are scared or confused.
  • They have health conditions that require complicated self-care.
  • They are voting on a critical local issue affecting the community's health and are relying on unfamiliar technical information.

Which Key Stakeholders Can Help Improve Health Literacy?

Organizations and individuals in a variety of different roles are key stakeholders who can help improve health literacy at national, state, tribal and local levels. These include:


  • Employers
  • Food, drug, and medical device producers and distributors

Educators and Community

  • Community service providers
  • Early childhood administrators, managers, and policymakers
  • Educational administrators, managers, and policymakers (K–12 and university)
  • Health communicators and educators
  • Health information and library professionals

Government and Public Health

  • Government agencies
  • Government health care purchasers
  • Public health officials
  • Public health professionals

Health Care and Payors

  • Health care executives
  • Health care facilities
  • Health care providers
  • Health care teams
  • Health plans

Media, Journals and Information Producers

  • Print, audiovisual, and electronic media
  • Professional journals
  • Commercial, academic, and nonprofit producers of health and safety information


  • Accreditation organizations
  • Licensing and credentialing organizations
  • Philanthropic, nonprofit, voluntary, advocacy, academic, and professional organizations

Researchers, Evaluators and Funders

  • Researchers
  • Evaluators
  • Funders
Health Literacy Blog button
Contact Us:
  • Page last reviewed: April 11, 2011
  • Page last updated: April 11, 2011 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO