Health Literacy Resources

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What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

Health literacy affects people’s ability to:

  • Navigate the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
  • Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
  • Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
  • Understand numbers and math concepts, such as probability and risk


The 2003 NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) study revealed that 14% of US adults have Below Basic health literacy — that’s 30 million people. Low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services.

NAAL also showed us that only 12 percent of American adults have Proficient health literacy. In other words, nearly 9 out of 10 adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.

Health literacy can have a significant impact on our daily lives

When we are busy, sick, coping with chronic conditions, or facing difficult news about our health — we all want information we can understand.

We know health literacy. Our seasoned IHA writing, design, web, and evaluation team can help you reach the people you hope to reach — those who need health information they can understand and can act upon.

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Medical care can be complicated. Many people struggle with understanding medicines, instructions, self-care guidelines, and follow-up plans. Effective and easy-to-understand print and multimedia materials can help your intended audience get the health information they need.