Health literacy refers to how well people can understand and use health information.
Health literacy is not just reading and writing. It’s about making sure that health information and services can be accessed, understood, and used by people in their daily lives.
According to a national survey, only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy skills, the level deemed necessary to promote health, prevent disease, and use the U.S. health care system. A lot of different factors – like education, language, and age – affect health literacy. Many of these factors are hard to change. But we can change how we communicate health information.
* National Center for Education Statistics. 2006. The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2010). Health literacy online: A guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health web sites. Retrieved from: http://www.health.gov/healthliteracyonline/why.htm
National Center for Education Statistics. (2006). The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006483.pdf
Fox, S. (2011). Online health search. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/HealthTopics.aspx
U.S. National Cancer Institute. (2007). Health Communication—HINTS 2005. Retrieved from http://hints.cancer.gov/topic.aspx?section=Health+Communication