Health Literacy is the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. An article in American Family Physician (2005;72:463–8. Copyright © 2005 American Academy of Family Physicians) suggests that, for optimal comprehension and compliance, patient education material should be written at a sixth-grade or lower reading level, preferably including pictures and illustrations and that all patients prefer reading medical information written in clear and concise language. Clinicians should be alert to this problem because most patients are unwilling to admit that they have literacy problems. Below are resources that you can access for improving patient health literacy.
Health Literacy Resources
- Ask for Health Information you can Understand – Don McCormick
- Quick Guide to Health Literacy
- ACP Foundation Health Literacy Resources
- IDPH (Iowa Department of Public Health) Health Literacy Resources
- IHS (Iowa Health Systems) Health Literacy Resources
- HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) Health Literacy Resources
- MLA (Medical Library Association) Health Literacy Resources
- AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) Health Literacy Resources
- AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) Health Literacy and Cultural Competency Resources
- Health Literacy Resources from Paul D. Smith, MD
- Health Literacy Resources from Massachusetts General Hospital
- Health Literacy Presentations from Wisconsin 2009 Health Literacy Summit
- IHS Adopts Patient-centered Approach
Health Literacy Resources from the NPSF (National Patient Safety Foundation)
The NPSF’s ‘Ask Me 3’ initiative is a patient education program designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions: What is my main problem?; What do I need to do? and; Why is it important for me to do this?
Testing the Readability of Text
The National Reading Campaign, an initiative of the National Literacy Trust, seeks to promote literacy across all communities. In their SMOG site, you can test the readability of your patient clinical information. SMOG (simplified measure of gobbledygook) is a readability ‘calculator’ developed by Harry McLaughlin, PhD, that provides a readability level for written material.
HRSA Health Literacy Free Online Course
“Unified Health Communication (UHC): Addressing Health Literacy, Cultural Competency, and Limited English Proficiency” is a free, on-line, go-at-your-own-pace training that has helped more than 4,000 health care professionals and students improve patient-provider communication.
Education Module for Clinicians from IHS
“Teach-back: A Health Literacy Tool to Ensure Patient Understanding.” Across the nation, health care providers rely on the teach-back method to ensure patients clearly understand treatment and prevention. Using the teach-back method, providers ask open-ended questions to encourage the patient to restate the medical instructions in his or her own words.
Health Literacy Toolkit from the AAFP
A Health Literacy Toolkit was developed in a combined effort with the AAFP. The kit provides a wealth of valuable resources and tools for family physicians and their patients to help family physicians communicate more effectively with their patients who are at risk for low health literacy. The resources help patients better understand their medications, take more responsibility for their health care, and use medications as prescribed.