What is health literacy?
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, communicate, process, and understand information about health. People need these skills to make good decisions about their health.
But nearly nine of every ten adults do not have the basic skills they need to manage their health (From Quick Guide to Health Literacy Fact Sheet: Health Literacy Basics, US Department of Health and Human Services).
Nine in ten people lack the skills they need to be healthy.
Why does health literacy matter?
Health literacy has a real impact on health outcomes and the use of health services:
- Use of preventive services. People with limited health literacy are less likely to use preventive services such as mammograms.
- Knowledge about conditions. They are more likely to have a chronic condition, but less likely to know how to manage it.
- Hospitalization. They are more likely to go to the hospital.
- Health status. They are more likely to report poor health status.
- Healthcare costs. They are more likely to use costly health services.
(From Quick Guide to Health Literacy Fact Sheet: Health Literacy and Health Outcomes, US Department of Health and Human Services)
What can I do?
There are many things you can do to help patients understand and use health information. Here are just a few:
How can the MaineHealth Community Education Program help?
We can help MaineHealth member organizations meet the needs of their patients with these services:
- Staff training on health literacy and clear communication
- Materials development, including readability assessments
- Testing materials for usability with focus groups, individual interviews, and user testing
Contact us to find out how we can help your practice with health literacy. Our services are free to MaineHealth member organizations.