Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions about their health. People must understand how to access and apply health information to seek medical care, take medications correctly, and follow prescribed treatments. Health literacy involves reading as well and other skills (e.g. writing, listening, speaking, numeracy, and critical analysis) to perform health-related tasks. According to a national survey, over one-third of the adult population has limited health literacy. Limited health literacy is associated with medication errors, increased health care costs, and inadequate knowledge, and inability to manage chronic health conditions.
Learn more about health literacy:
- IHS White paper on Health Literacy [PDF - 121 KB]
- The National Library of Medicine’s Health Literacy Page
- The Center for Disease Control’s Health Literacy Page
- The National Institutes of Health Health Literacy Page
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Pharmacy Health Literacy Center