Nearly nine out of 10 adults in the United States struggle with health literacy. Limited health literacy can cause worsened health outcomes, strain the health care system, and create additional costs. Limited health literacy is prevalent among marginalized populations, disproportionately impacting Medicaid members.

Health care stakeholders can play a key role in addressing health literacy concerns. Providers, hospital systems, state agencies, and health plans, particularly those serving historically marginalized populations, are well positioned to equip patients with clear, relevant, and useful health information.

Strengthening health literacy at the organizational level is a key strategy for advancing health equity and promoting deeper engagement with patients and community members.

These health literacy fact sheets can help stakeholders understand, assess, and improve health literacy practices. The fact sheets define health literacy, highlight its important connection to health equity, and outline ways to measure and improve limited health literacy through written communications, patient-provider dialogue, and enhanced organizational practices.

Explore individual fact sheets below or download the full packet.

  1. What is Health Literacy? – Defines health literacy, outlines its importance, and describes the impacts of limited health literacy at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.
  2. Identifying Limited Health Literacy – Details the prevalence of limited health literacy and provides formal and informal assessment strategies for identifying patients with limited health literacy.

  3. How Improving Health Literacy Can Advance Health Equity – Discusses how limited health literacy contributes to health disparities and offers strategies for health care organizations seeking to address these interconnected challenges.

  4. Improving Written Communication to Promote Health Literacy – Provides guidelines for improving written communication in health care settings through plain language principles, readability assessment tools, and testing materials.

  5. Improving Verbal Communication to Promote Patient Health Literacy – Offers guidance for providers on how to engage patients effectively through clear, culturally competent conversation and interviewing techniques.

CHCS expresses appreciation to Beccah Rothschild and Health Engagement Strategies for their support in refining and developing these fact sheets. These fact sheets were modified from an earlier set of fact sheets developed in 2013 by CHCS and made possible by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.