Did You Know?

Did you know that more than 30 million people in the United States have difficulty with basic reading tasks? Only 12 percent of consumers have proficient health literacy skills, according to a National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey.

Low health literacy can impact one’s ability to:

  • Read prescription drug labels
  • Fill out medical forms
  • Locate health providers

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”

Health literacy is an issue for all racial and ethnic groups. It’s an important public health consideration in eliminating disparities among minority populations. Advancing health literacy is a component of the Federal Government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative, and today, many major schools of public health now offer health literacy instruction.

At Circle Solutions, we have been recognized for our efforts to improve health literacy, winning 33 NIH Plain Language/Clear Communications Awards. Below are several ways that public health professionals can help improve health information design and delivery:

  • Test for literacy
  • Make messages count
  • Present information logically and clearly
  • Think carefully about design (meaning of colors for certain groups and ethnic cultures)
  • Consider the target population (teens, elderly, non-English speakers)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide a wealth of resources on their websites, covering health awareness, plain language writing, and cultural competency. The CDC’s Clear Communication Index assesses health literacy in public communications materials. This research-based tool measures language, information design, use of numbers, and behavioral recommendations.

By utilizing available resources and by consistency applying best practices, we can improve health literacy and help more individuals make informed decisions about their health care and lives.



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