Health Literacy

Health literacy refers to the comprehension and social skills that play a critical role in the ability of an individual to gain access to information for the promotion and maintenance of good health. Improving a population’s health literacy is a key influence upon its acquisition, economics and the proper measurement of the respective health knowledge gained. Further, recent studies demonstrate that health literacy plays an important part in many primary care and mental health behavior outcomes. These outcomes reflect the literacy and communication skills of patients and health care providers.

Practitioners, health service managers, policy makers, academics and consumer groups should understand and measure health literacy strengths and weaknesses to appropriately communicate with their community members and patients. The accurate screening of health literacy supports an increased understanding of patient service needs within all tiers (global, national, state, community and individual) of the health care system. Several examples of ways to improve health literacy, presented by scholar R.W. Batterham (2016)external icon are as follows:

  • Develop and conduct surveys with multidimensional structure as a form of health literacy tools.
  • Discuss survey outcome data with patients and the providing health care team and or institution.
  • Require that all health and social service agencies provide staff with information about the use of culturally appropriate language and information during patient interaction
  • Strengthen support networks for health and social services.
  • Identify and collect data on health literacy barriers in populations that have poor access to health and social services.

Learn how to create a health literacy plan within your organization.

Page last reviewed: January 14, 2022