Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals Course Glossary

On this page, you will find a glossary for the key words used in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online course, Health Literacy for Public Health Professionalsexternal icon.

Barriers — Factors that get in the way of an audience adopting a desired behavior change. Factors may be external or internal to audience members themselves, for example, lack of proper healthcare facilities, the belief that fate causes illness and one cannot alter fate, lack of skill to use a condom correctly, and others.


Evaluation — Assessment of a component of an intervention that compares what was observed with the stated goal(s).


Health Communication — A key strategy to inform the public about health concerns and to maintain important health issues on the public agenda; the use of the mass media, multimedia, and technological innovations to disseminate useful health information to the public and increase awareness of specific aspects of individual and collective health. Effective health communication also promotes the importance of healthy behaviors and engages the intended audience in message development.


Health Literacy — There are two definitions for health literacy:

  • Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
  • Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.


Health Marketing — An innovative approach to public health that applies traditional marketing principles and theories to science-based strategies for disease and injury prevention, health promotion, and health protection.


Healthy People — A nationwide health promotion and disease prevention plan with measurable objectives and targets to be achieved each decade.


Linguistic Competency — The capacity to communicate effectively and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences that might include persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills, those who are not literate, and persons with disabilities.


Literacy — The ability to understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written text to participate in the society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.


Marketing — The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging products and services that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.


National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) — A nationally representative assessment of English literacy among American adults age 16 and older. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAAL was the nation’s most comprehensive measure of adult literacy since the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS).


Podcast — A series of digital media files, usually digital audio or video, that is made available for download through web syndication.


Public Health — The science and art of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research on the prevention of disease and injury.


Page last reviewed: November 17, 2021