Health professionals must commit to advocating for improved
health literacy in our respective organizations. We must
embed health literacy in our programs, policies, strategic
plans, and research activities.
You can advocate for health literacy in your organization.
Make the case for health literacy
Incorporate health literacy into mission and planning
Establish accountability for health literacy activities
the case for health literacy
Include health literacy in staff training and orientation.
Training staff will increase awareness of the need
for addressing health literacy and improve their skills
for communicating with the public.
Include information on health literacy in staff
Make a presentation on health literacy at your next
Circulate relevant research and reports on health
literacy to colleagues.
Post and share health literacy resources.
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Identify specific programs and projects affected by
low health literacy.
How can addressing health literacy improve the effectiveness
of these programs? What existing or ongoing organizational
activities contribute to the improvement of health literacy?
How can these activities be recognized and supported?
Target key opinion leaders with health literacy information.
Brief senior staff and key decisionmakers on the importance
of health literacy. Explain how health literacy relates
to the organization's mission, goals, and strategic
plan and how it can be incorporated into existing programs.
Use the following talking points
to make the case for health literacy improvement:
Only 12 percent of adults have Proficient health literacy,
according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In other
words, nearly 9 out of 10 adults may lack the skills needed to
manage their health and prevent disease.
Furthermore, 14 percent of adults (30 million people) have
Below Basic health literacy. These adults were more likely to
report their health as poor (42 percent) and more likely to lack
health insurance (28 percent) than adults with Proficient health
There is a mismatch between the reading level of
health information and the reading skills of the
public. In addition, there is a mismatch between
the communication skills of lay people and health
Adults with limited literacy skills are less likely
to manage their chronic diseases and more likely
to be hospitalized than people with stronger literacy
skills. This leads to poorer health outcomes and
higher healthcare costs.
People's ability to understand health information
is related to the clarity of the communication. Health
professionals' skills, the burden of medical
jargon, and complicated healthcare delivery systems
affect health literacy.
The benefits of health literacy improvement include
improved communication, greater adherence to treatment,
greater ability to engage in self-care, improved
health status, and greater efficiency and cost savings
to the health system as a whole.
Enhancing health literacy does not always require
additional resources. It is a method for improving
the effectiveness of the work we are already doing.
health literacy into mission and planning
Include specific goals and objectives related to improving
health literacy in strategic plans, performance plans,
programs, and educational initiatives. Goals and objectives
may be population based (for example, achieving Healthy
People 2010 Objective 11-2) or specific to the mission
of the organization.
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Convene a work group to develop a health literacy agenda
for your organization.
Seek input and collaboration from a broad cross-section
Include health literacy in grants, contracts, and memorandums
Recommend that all products, including educational
materials, forms, and questionnaires, be written in plain
language and tested with the intended users. Encourage
contractors, grantees, and partners to indicate and evaluate
how their activities contribute to improved health literacy.
Incorporate health literacy into Funding Opportunity
Announcements (FOAs). These include requests for proposals
(RFPs), applications (RFAs), corrections (RFCs), and
program announcements (PAs). In addition, provide proposal
reviewers with basic health literacy information and
training when appropriate.
Include health literacy in program evaluation.
Incorporate health literacy objectives into evaluation
criteria for programs and projects.
Include health literacy improvement in budget requests.
Designating funding for health literacy activities
will hold staff and management accountable and encourage
Implement health literacy metrics.
Implementing metrics or measurable objectives for your
organization will help establish accountability for health
literacy activities. Below are examples of health literacy
Our organization will:
Apply user-centered design principles to 75 percent
of new Web pages.
Ensure that all documents intended for the public
are reviewed by a plain language expert.
Provide all new employees with training in cultural
competency and health literacy within 6 months of
their date of hire.
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