Print: Foreword

Foreword by Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc

As content writers and developers of consumer digital health information tools, you are faced with the difficult task of imagining what your end users will find understandable and actionable. There are a number of strategies that can help (e.g., use cases, personas, and user requirements) to make your tools more user friendly. But these strategies cannot always close the experience gap that exists between writers and developers and their end users. That is why user research is so important. It can provide insights into how users interact with and understand digital health information. This guide provides actionable steps for creating more accessible consumer-centric digital tools that have the potential to ease the burden of navigating complex digital health information.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed this 2nd edition of Health Literacy Online: A Guide to Simplifying the User Experience, an updated version of the 2010 guide, to help bridge this gap. Derived from extensive research with more than 800 users, this updated guide offers practical insights into a full range of users’ navigation experiences, particularly those who struggle with reading and health literacy, and can be used to help create intuitive, easy-to-use digital health information tools.

This 2nd edition of Health Literacy Online is aligned with the President’s Digital Government Strategy, which calls for new and better ways to deliver digital information and services anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Since its conception, Health Literacy Online has informed the responsively designed, an award-winning website developed by ODPHP that reflects the commitment of HHS to improving health literacy and democratizing access to health information technology. The recommendations in Health Literacy Online serve as a roadmap for achieving the Healthy People 2020 objectives to increase the proportion of quality health-related websites (Objective HC/HIT-8).

We cannot know for sure the level of health literacy of those who will visit our websites, in what context they will access them, or what device they will be using. We can, however, be ready for them. We do this by designing digital health information tools that are broadly accessible and available to all Americans because they have been designed with them in mind.

Thankfully, we have practical guidance like Health Literacy Online to help us in this mission.

Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc
Acting Assistant Secretary for Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services