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Goal 6: Increase Basic Research and the Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of Practices and Interventions To Improve Health Literacy

Why this goal is important:

Much of the evidence on interventions comes from improving doctor–patient communication, simplifying written materials, and using video or other supplementary materials. More studies are needed that compare more than one intervention, and much more research is needed to better assess and evaluate health literacy. The strategies and resources below will help achieve this goal.

For more information, please review the complete text of Goal 6 [PDF - 666KB] in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. See: Section 3, Goal 6.

Strategies by Stakeholders:

Strategies for Researchers, Evaluators, and Funders

  • Identify and address gaps, such as numeracy and visual communication, in health literacy research
  • Collaborate to develop a national research agenda and include health literacy innovations and interventions in research plans and goals
  • Develop more rigorous and comprehensive methods to measure individual and population health literacy skills that capture the full range of skills, including listening and speaking, writing, numeracy, and cultural and conceptual knowledge
  • Develop methods to measure or estimate health literacy skills at local levels
  • Develop methods to measure the full range of health literacy skills of health professionals and organizations
  • Conduct studies of the economic impact of limited health literacy
  • Explore technology-based interventions to improve health literacy
  • Assess barriers and strategies to improve access to health information and navigation of the health care system
  • Support systematic reviews and evaluations of effectiveness and implementation of health literacy interventions
  • Evaluate existing health literacy interventions for their impact on (1) people’s ability to use health information and services more effectively and (2) cost, safety, and health outcomes
  • Include health literacy interventions in other research areas, such as chronic diseases, patient safety, immunizations, and health equity (i.e., an individual’s ability to attain his or her full health potential regardless of social position or other socially determined circumstances)
  • Develop and implement health literacy interventions based on theories and models—drawing from such related disciplines as communication, education, cognitive science, and medical sociology
  • Expand interventions beyond the clinic and into community settings and engage in community-based participatory research
  • Remove barriers that prevent persons with limited health literacy skills from participating in clinical trials and other health-related studies
  • Include health literacy measures in national and other surveys

Strategies for Public Health Professionals

  • Explore the feasibility and utility of a health literacy scorecard or composite index for individual and system monitoring of health literacy on a national or sub-national level
  • Include health literacy measures in public health data collection and surveillance
  • Increase support for systems- and community-based research in health literacy improvement
  • Include health literacy factors in the evaluation of public health interventions in such other areas as chronic disease prevention and management


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  • 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
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