Measuring Skills & Experiences

Child learning to write.

Several large-scale surveys provide estimates of people's literacy, numeracy, and health literacy skills.

Different surveys measure people’s literacy, numeracy, and health literacy skills and their experiences with healthcare. You can use these studies for ideas about research and evaluation questions or as benchmarks for your own results.

National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Surveys

  • The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)external icon – This study is an international survey conducted in 23 countries as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. It assesses literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments.
  • National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)external icon – The NAAL is a nationally representative assessment of English literacy among American adults age 16 and older. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the NAAL is the Nation’s most comprehensive measure of adult literacy. The Health Literacy Component of the NAAL introduces the first-ever national assessment of adults’ ability to use literacy skills with health-related materials and forms.

K-12 Literacy, Numeracy and Science Skills

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)external icon is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas, including reading, math and science. Although these data are not specific to health literacy, the results provide reliable assessments of the underlying skills for health literacy in the school-aged population.

Patient Experience

  • Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Questionnaireexternal icon
    The CAHPS Consortium has developed a supplemental set for the CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey that focuses on assessing providers’ activities to foster and improve the health literacy of patients. While health literacy depends in part on individuals’ skills, it also depends on the complexity of health information and how it is communicated. The primary goal of the CAHPS Item Set for Addressing Health Literacy is to measure, from the patients’ perspective, how well health information is communicated to them by health care professionals.

Measures of Individuals’ Health Literacy

  • AHRQ Health Literacy Measurement Toolsexternal icon
    AHRQ-funded researchers have developed a variety of tools to measure an aspect of health literacy—individuals’ reading comprehension in a medical context. The tools are for the assessment of health literacy in speakers of English and Spanish, the languages most frequently spoken in the United States.
  • Health Literacy Tool Shedexternal icon
    The Health Literacy Tool Shed is an online database of health literacy measures. The site contains information about measures, including their psychometric properties, based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature. The Tool Shed is a collaboration among Communicate Health, the National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, Boston University, and RTI International.


Page last reviewed: October 17, 2019