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Key Activities in the Development of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy

Many organizations – public and private, large and small – contributed to the development of the National Action Plan. Below are some key activities that brought national attention to limited health literacy as an issue, generated information and created the momentum for a plan.

Initial National Attention (1999-2004)

  • The Ad Hoc Committee on Health Literacy for the American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs publishes its report on health literacy.
  • Healthy People 2010 identifies limited health literacy as a public health problem and sets national objectives for its improvement. Healthy People 2020 also includes health literacy-related objectives.
  • The Institute of Medicine issues Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, finding that health literacy is critical to the improvement of the health of individuals and the nation.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes its evidence report on Literacy and Health Outcomes.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishes a Health Literacy Workgroup.

Further Research (2004-2006)

  • The National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality release an ongoing funding announcement to support health literacy research.
  • The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) measures the literacy and health literacy skills of English-speaking adults. For the first time, the results show that limited health literacy affects nearly 9 out of 10 English-speaking adults in the US.
  • The Institute of Medicine convenes the Roundtable on Health Literacy.

Workshop and Town Halls (2006-2008)

  • The U.S. Surgeon General hosts a Workshop on Improving Health Literacy to present the state of the science in health literacy.
    • Participants identify the public health consequences of limited health literacy and establish a framework for action.
  • As a follow-up to the Surgeon General's Workshop, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services convenes town hall meetings to explore promising practices to improve health literacy.
    • Representatives from local organizations serving the health, education, social services and information needs of the community attend.
    • To include diverse perspectives, these 1-day meetings take place in New York City, Sacramento, St. Louis, and Tampa.
    • Participants imagine the year 2025 and describe the characteristics of a health literate society and the goals and strategies to create such a society.

Organizational Consultations and Plan Release (2009-2010)

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  • Page last reviewed: April 11, 2011
  • Page last updated: April 11, 2011
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