Health Literacy

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Welcome to the Health Literacy Area!


What's New?

Online Discussion About State or Regional Health Literacy Coalitions

Please join us for an online discussion about Health Literacy Coalitions! Many, but not all, of the current health literacy coalitions have strong partners in adult education. In this discussion you can learn how your program can fit into a state or regional health literacy coalition, and how to encourage your local health agencies to include you in their health literacy efforts.
  • What: Building and Supporting Health Literacy Coalitions
  • When: February 9-13, 2015
  • Who: Guest moderators Cynthia Baur and Michele Erikson
  • Where: The Health Literacy Discussion List
If you're not a member, you can join here:
The list is supported by the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA)

For more information about this discussion:

Join the LINCS Health Literacy Community!
This is a community for adult literacy practitioners who are interested in addressing health literacy in their programs.


The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy was released in May of 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This plan “seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multisector effort to improve health literacy.” It was developed by the HHS Health Literacy Workgroup with broad public and professional input, and supports the health literacy objectives for Healthy People 2010 and 2020.

Health Literacy Special Collection This newly updated collection has information and resources for adult educators, health educators and providers, and others. Read up, find resources, curricula and training opportunities, and learn about collaborating between fields. (Note: All of the resources previously on this Wiki page, including the research still listed below, can now be found on the HL Special Collection.)

The Calgary Charter on Health Literacy: Definition and Core Principles for the Development of Health Literacy Curricula This charter introduces a revised definition of health literacy and presents basic core principles to be used in developing health literacy curricula.

Health Literacy Wiki sponsored by a New York Medical College. This has resources on its Toolkit page.


  • Evidence Base For Effectiveness of Teaching Health Literacy in ABE and ESOL Programs
See this link for a collection of research reports that support teaching health literacy in adult education settings.
  • First Monday R & R: Review of Research

This feature from the LINCS Health Literacy Discussion List adds new articles on the first Monday of every month.

  • The Health Literacy of America's Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy
  • Bringing Health Literacy Research to Practice (2005)
  • Evidence Report: Health and Literacy (2004)
  • Institute of Medicine (IOM) Health Literacy Report (2004)
  • Literacy and Health in America (2004)
  • Current Bibliographies in Medicine/Health Literacy 2004-1: Understanding Health Literacy and its Barriers
The National Library of Medicine
  • Current Bibliography in Medicine: Health Literacy (2000)
The National Library of Medicine
  • Empowerment Health Education in Adult Literacy: A Guide for Public Health and Adult Literacy Practitioners, Policy Makers and Funders (1997)
  • NCSALL Research Reports
NCSALL Report #5:
Integrating Health and Literacy: Adult Educator's Experiences (1998)
by Rima Rudd
NCSALL Report #8:
Adult Educators' Perceptions of Health Issues and Topics in Adult Basic Education Programs (1999)
by Rima Rudd and Barbara Moeykens
NCSALL Report #9:
Findings From a National Survey of State Directors of Adult Education (1999)
by Rima Rudd, L. Zahner, & M. Banh
NCSALL Report #14:
An Overview of Medical and Public Health Literature Addressing Literacy Issues: An Annotated Bibliography (2002)
by Rima Rudd, Tayla Colton, and Robin Schacht
  • Health Literacy Out Loud podcasts. Helen Osborne interviews those in-the-know about health literacy. New episodes come out about every two weeks. You can take a look, listen, and subscribe for free by going to
The ACP Foundation conducts annual national health communication conferences, convening panels of experts from all levels of the health care system to address issues in health communication. After each conference, the Foundation publishes a report summarizing the key messages for broad distribution. In addition, each conference is evaluated by its participants in order to assist the Foundation in designing the topic and format of the next conference, as well as identifying potential Health Communication Initiative projects.
  • The National Library of Medicine's Special Query page for Health Literacy
You can click on the hotlink that says MEDLINE/PubMed health literacy search to run an up-to-date PubMed/MEDLINE
  • Understanding Health Literacy: Implications for Medicine and Public Health
Joanne G. Schwartzberg, MD, Jonathan B. VanGeest, PhD, Claire C. Wang, MD.
Aims to help physicians and other health care practitioners improve the quality of care for patients who are now at a disadvantage in communications regarding medications, tests, procedures, and informed consent. Provides an overview of health literacy in health care. Patient-physician communications are examined, and issues involving health care delivery are discussed. Major surveys of literacy are summarized and the most commonly used health literacy tests are analyzed. Patients’ use of the internet to find health information is explored. This book provides examples of communication problems and offers samples of clear and simplified communication with patients.
Available from the American Medical Association Bookstore website at
  • Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action.
Zarcadoolas, C., Pleasant, A., & Greer, D. (2006). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.
Available at
and many other online booksellers.
Advancing Health Literacy addresses the crisis in health literacy in the United States and around the world. This book thoroughly examines the critical role of literacy in public health and outlines a practical, effective model that bridges the gap between health education, health promotion, and health communication. Step by step, the authors outline the theory and practice of health literacy from a public health perspective. This comprehensive resource includes the history of health literacy, theoretical foundations of health and language literacy, the role of the media, a series of case studies on important topics including prenatal care, anthrax, HIV/AIDS, genomics, and diabetes. The book concludes with a series of practical guidelines for the development and assessment of health communications materials. Also included are essential techniques needed to help people make informed decisions, advocate for themselves and their community, mitigate risk, and live healthier lives.
  • Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message
Osborne, H (2004). Jones & Bartlett Publishers: Sudbury, MA.
Available from the Health Literacy Consulting website at from the publisher's website at : or most online bookstores.
This award-winning handbook is designed for the busy health professional. Filled with ideas and strategies that can be used in everyday practice, Health Literacy from A to Z is a first-of-its-kind resource. Learn the key principles and strategies of effective health communication presented in a simple, informal manner by one of the nation’s leading experts in health literacy.
  • Health Literacy Studies
Health Literacy Studies is located in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health and is part of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, with Dr. Rima Rudd as Principal Investigator.
We are engaged in a variety of research efforts focused on communication and literacy skills. We are interested in exploring the pathways from education to health outcomes. We examine literacy-related barriers to a variety of health services and care and work with researchers in adult education to identify skills needed to access programs and services, manage chronic diseases, and participate in disease prevention activities. Our work is based in community, public health, health care, and adult education settings. Our goal is to help reduce health disparities.
This site is designed for professionals in health and education who are interested in health literacy. It contains materials you may find useful for your work.
  • Quick Guide to Health Literacy
From the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
This is a reference for professionals interested in health literacy. The strategies discussed in the guide reflect the current body of research in health literacy and health communication. These strategies include:
-improving the usability of health information;
-improving the usability of health services;
-building knowledge to improve health decision-making; and
-advocating for health literacy improvement.
  • Family Health and Literacy
From World Education, Inc.
This guide to easy-to-read health materials and websites is for health educators and adult literacy practitioners alike. It lists resources to teach health to families with lower literacy skills, but also discusses how to integrate health and literacy education, how to get started and engage adult learners, and how to build connections between literacy programs and local health services.
Hard copies are also available free of charge for a limited time.
Please contact:
  • The Health & Literacy Special Collection
  • AMA Foundation Health Literacy Initiative
  • Ask Me 3
  • Current Bibliographies in Medicine/Health Literacy
  • Medical Library Association Health Information Literacy
  • Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative

A curriculum designed for high beginner/low intermediate ESL students


The discussions below are from the Health Literacy Discussion List. Join it for free at the following link:

Julie McKinney
Discussion List Moderator

Phonotonovellas in Health and Literacy Education

On the Health Literacy Discussion List, Susan Auger and John Comings were guests to talk about the concept behind photonovellas and why they are so well-suited to health education for adult learners, and multicultural patients. We also heard from adult educators and health outreach workers to see how this tool can be used effectively in both health and literacy settings.

Please see the full announcement at:

The Health Literacy Discussion List celebrated Health Literacy Month with this discussion...
October 15-22, 2007, Panel Discussion: Communication Between Patients and Health Care Providers.

Panelists included adult learners, teachers, health care providers and health educators. For more information, see below. The entire discussion will be added soon to the page below.

Panel Discussion: Communication Between Patients and Health Care Providers: October 15 - 22, 2007

[Health Literacy Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy NAAL: Sept. 17-24, 2007]

Using Pictures for Low Literacy Health Education Materials: Jan. 8-12, 2007

Using the Health Literacy Study Circles: June 19-23, 2006

Promising Practices

These are accounts of successful and innovative projects or collaborations being done around the country to address health literacy issues. Click on the title to read about each project.

  • "Promising Practices for Patient-Centered Communication with Vulnerable Populations: Examples from Eight Hospitals."
By Matthew Wynia and Jennifer Matiasek

If you have a "promising practice" to share, please add it in, or contact:

Julie McKinney
Health Literacy topic area leader

Stories from Learners and Patients

These are stories from adult literacy learners and others about communication or navigation experiences within the health system. What makes these interactions challenging? What makes them successful? If you, your student, or your patient has a story to share, please add it in, or contact Julie McKinney at:

There is also a section called 'How Long-term Health Care Facilities Work', which includes stories by patients, their families and friends about an experience that taught them how the health organization works, how to get better service, or what questions to ask.

Stories from Learners and Patients

[How Long-term Health Care Facilities Work]

Announcements & Upcoming Events

Institute of Medicine's Roundtable on Health Literacy:
Facilitating State Health Exchange Communication through the Use of Health Literate Practices

When: July 19, 2011
Where: Washington, D.C.

Inaugural Ohio Health Literacy Conference: Understand. Act. Live.

When: October 12-13, 2011
Where: Cleveland, OH

Also see Health Literacy Missouri's Events Listings:

Personal tools