Nearly 36 percent of adults in the U.S. have low health literacy, with disproportionate rates found among lower-income Americans eligible for Medicaid. Individuals with low health literacy experience greater health care use and costs compared to those with proficient health literacy. Through all its impacts — medical errors, increased illness and disability, loss of wages, and compromised public health — low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion every year.1 

This series of fact sheets was created to help clinicians, patient advocates, and other stakeholders improve care for individuals with low health literacy. The fact sheets define health literacy; describe ways to identify low health literacy; provide strategies to improve print and oral communication for low-literate consumers; provide information about the intersection of health literacy and culture; and highlight key policies relating to health literacy.

Access individual fact sheets below or download the full packet.


  1. What is Health Literacy?
  2. How is Low Health Literacy Identified?
  3. Health Literacy Role of Culture
  4. Improving Print Communication to Promote Health Literacy
  5. Improving Oral Communication to Promote Health Literacy
  6. Health Literacy: Policy Implications and Opportunities

The author would like to acknowledge the following experts who contributed to the development of these resources: Cheryl Bettigale, Complete Care Health Network; Carolyn Cocotas, F.E.G.S. Health and Human Services System; Arthur Culbert and Megan Rooney, Health Literacy Missouri; Linda Harris and Jessica Rowden, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Beccah Rothschild, Health Research to Action, University of California, Berkeley; Ruth Parker, Emory University School of Medicine.

1. J. Vernon, A. Trujillo, S. Rosenbaum, and B. DeBuono. Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy. University of Connecticut, 2007.