Leaders Talk About Health Literacy

Many people say that if senior leaders would speak up about health literacy, we would make more progress in this field. Some public health leaders have spoken up. Read what they’re saying about health literacy.

Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky

“Health equity is crucial to our mission. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought longstanding health inequities to the forefront and presented a critical opportunity to achieve optimal health for all. Health literacy strategies advance health equity. Offering guidance to the public in clear, understandable, and digestible ways saves lives during moments of crisis.”

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., Surgeon General, Vice Admiral (VADM)
Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A.

“Build the Great American Community”external icon
April 22, 2015

“First, we will combat misinformation with clear communication. Whether e-cigarettes or the latest diet fad, marijuana or the measles, we will give the American people the best information so they can make good decisions for their own health.”

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, A.B., B.A., former Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS)
Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Minority Health Month: Making Progress on Health Disparitiesexternal icon
April 13, 2015

“If we want health equity, we need to make health literacy a priority. That’s why HHS has launched a campaign to bring people from “Coverage to Care,” to connect people to the care they need; teach them how to understand their benefits and their bills; and give them the tools to make healthier decisions.”

Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health
Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health

Literacy to Move Beyond the Cycle of Costly Crisis Care external icon
Health Literacy Out Loud #77, May 8, 2012

“It was amazing to me as a provider and physician the range of responses I got. Some people had a very clear, scientific understanding of their condition, particularly cancer. Others would go on the internet and read information that was either of high quality or not and come in absolutely terrified. I came to respect that each person is different. Each patient situation is different, and the patient’s level of understanding about their options differs greatly as well. This is at the heart of health literacy in my view as a clinician, starting where the patient is and going from there.”

Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., former U.S. Surgeon General
Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A.

Improving Health By Improving Health Literacyexternal icon
Public Health Reports, issue 6, 2010

“As clinicians, what we say does not matter unless our patients are able to understand the information we give them well enough to use it to make good health-care decisions. Otherwise, we didn’t reach them, and that is the same as if we didn’t treat them.”

Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., former U.S. Surgeon General
Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., Former U.S. Surgeon General

Health Literacy: A National Priority external icon
Journal of General Internal Medicine, August 2006

“The poor state of health literacy in America is a crisis. It is an underlying cause of disparities. It is also a source of extensive disempowerment and perpetuates preventable disease.”


Page last reviewed: May 6, 2021