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

Goal 2: Promote Changes in the Health Care Delivery System That Improve Health Information, Communication, Informed Decision-making, and Access to Health Services

Why this goal is important:

Our nation's health care system is inherently complex. With shifts in delivery of care to specialized and fragmented care, an emphasis on self-management and complex financing and coverage requirements, the there is great demand on the patient to be informed and proactive about their health. Changes in the health care system to reduce those demands and make health information and services more accessible and understandable will go a long way in improving health outcomes. The strategies and resources below will help achieve this goal.

For more information, please review the complete text of Goal 2 [PDF - 666KB] in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. See: Section 3, Goal 2.

Strategies by Stakeholders:

Strategies for Health Care Professionals (Including Anyone Who Is Part of a Health Care or Public Health Services Team)

  • Use different types of communication and tools with patients, including vetted pictures and models and scorecards, to support written and oral communication with patients and their caregivers
  • Use existing programs, such as AHRQ's Questions Are the Answers, to prepare patients and providers for visits and structure their communication
  • Use direct and developmentally appropriate communication with children to build better understanding of their health and health care
  • Use proven methods of checking patient understanding, such as the teach-back method, to ensure that patients understand health information and risk and benefit tradeoffs associated with treatments, procedures, tests, and medical devices
  • Ensure that pharmacists provide the necessary counseling to consumers in language they understand for dispensed medications as required by law
  • Use patient-centered technologies at all stages of the health care process to support the information and decision-making needs of patients
  • Use technology, including social media, to expand patients' access to the health care team and information
  • Participate in ongoing training in health literacy, plain language, and culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) and encourage colleagues and staff to be trained
  • Advocate for requirements in continuing education for health care providers who have been working in the field but have not participated in health literacy, cultural competency, and language access training
  • Create patient-friendly environments that facilitate communication by using architecture, images, and language to reflect the community and its values
  • Refer patients to public and medical libraries to get more information and assistance with finding accurate and actionable health information
  • Refer patients to adult education and English language programs

Strategies for Educators and Licensing and Credentialing Organizations

  • Include coursework on health literacy and CLAS in curricula of all health professions
  • Support health literacy and CLAS training opportunities for students and residents in all health professions
  • Incorporate diverse patients, including new readers, in course presentations and trainings for health professionals
  • Include assessment of health literacy and CLAS skills in licensure requirements for all health professions
  • Establish minimum continuing education requirements in health literacy and CLAS for all health professions
  • Increase the number of racially and ethnically diverse and/or bilingual health care professionals

Strategies for Accreditation Organizations

  • Adopt accreditation standards for health care organizations that require care delivery systems to address health literacy and CLAS
  • Incorporate health literacy and CLAS process and outcome performance measures into accreditation requirements

Strategies for Health Care Executives

  • Increase awareness of and compliance with Title VI, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other laws designed to ensure that individuals with LEP and/or disabilities have access to health information and language assistance
  • Provide comprehensive language access and assistive technologies, including interpreter services, at every point of contact to meet the needs of diverse patient communities and create a person-centered environment
  • Train all staff, including executives and support staff, in the principles of health literacy and CLAS
  • Remove informational barriers and create a welcoming, easy-to-navigate, shame-free environment by using such methods as well-designed signage and offering assistance with forms
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of continuing education opportunities to improve communication and CLAS skills
  • Integrate health literacy and CLAS audit tools, standards, and scorecards into all quality process and performance improvement activities and metrics
  • Establish programs for patient navigators, health coaches (electronic and/or people), and/or community health workers to help patients access recommended services and information
  • Negotiate with third-party payers on reimbursements for patient education and interpreter services
  • Establish formal mechanisms to review and address the literacy level, quality of translation, and cultural appropriateness of all written information for patients
  • Integrate health information technologies (e.g., electronic and personal health records) and enhance underdeveloped technology platforms to support patient–provider communication and health coaches
  • Include members of patient communities, including new readers, in organizational assessments and health literacy improvement efforts
  • Evaluate the contribution of poor communication and information to patient safety incidents and poor health outcomes
  • Provide incentives to encourage employees to use good communication practices
  • Provide patient support services, such as previsit or hospitalization reminders and postvisit and discharge followup calls, to help patients prepare and know what to do when they are home

Strategies for Health Information and Library Professionals

  • Help to train all health care staff in the principles of health literacy and plain language
  • Create collections or repositories of materials (e.g., insurance forms and instructions, informed consent and other legal documents, aftercare and medication instruction, and patient education materials) in several languages and review the materials with members of the target population
  • Help to disseminate existing communication tools and resources for patients


Available Resources for

Health Care Professionals:

Educators and Licensing and Credentialing Organizations:

Accreditation Organizations:

Health Care Executives:

Health Information and Library Professionals:

Health Literacy Blog button
Contact Us:
  • Page last reviewed: June 26, 2012
  • Page last updated: February 12, 2014 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