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What is Health Literacy?

“The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions”

-HHS Healthy People 2010

Health Literacy is the ability to read, understand and act on Healthcare info. People with low functional Health Literacy are:

  • Less likely to understand written health information
  • Less likely to understand how to take their medicines
  • Less likely to be able to engage in self-care
  • Less likely to act upon necessary directions
  • Less likely to say that they don’t understand!


Health Literacy problems affect people from all backgrounds, especially those with chronic health problems. Watch this short video on patient interaction from the American Medical Association to understand the problems that people face in these situations.


Health literacy affects people’s ability to:

  • Navigate the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
  • Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
  • Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
  • Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk

Read more on health literacy and Plain language at health.gov