Skip to Main Content

Health Literacy and Patient Education

This guide was created for health professionals who have an interest in health literacy, patient education and making healthcare information understandable to all. It provides links to books and journals, as well as other quality sources.

AMA Health Literacy Program

The AMA Health Literacy Program developed from the work of the AMA Foundation.  This website provides toolkits, patient handouts, videos, links to nation-wide projects, links to health literacy news, listserves and more.  Of special note is the page What Others Are Doing.

Literacy in New York City

Over 2 million New York City residents can be described as being functionally illiterate– that’s 25% of the total population in the city.   Literacy Partners

Health Information in Other Languages

Government Initiatives

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information and tools to improve health literacy and public health and make health information accurate, accessible and actionable for all. The website features roadmaps, trainings, and planning tools to use the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy provides a blueprint for efforts to improve health literacy and calls for a response from all sectors involved in health information with 7 clearly defined goals.  Produced in 2010 by US Department of Health and Human Services. Health Literacy and Communication key tools, research and reports, and resources for public health and health communication professionals.

AHRQ's Health Literacy Universal Precautions toolkit gives primary care practices a way to assess their services for health literacy considerations, raise awareness of the entire staff, and work on specific areas.  

AHRQ's Consumer Awareness of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys,  are known for use with patients leaving the hospital.  Now there is a CAHPS Item Set for addressing health literacy.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) report from 2003 provides first-hand information on the status of the health literacy of American adults age 16 and older. This was is the first large-scale national assessment in the US to contain a component designed specifically to measure health literacy.

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools for making written material easier for people to read, understand, and use.

Joint Commission

Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care The "roadmap" provides 

Facts about Patient-Centered Communications The Joint Commission recommends an approach to communicating health information that encompasses language needs, individual understanding, and cultural and other communication issues. Topic library item July 17, 2014.

 Speak Up: Understanding Your Doctors and Other Caregivers campaign is part of national patient safety Speak Up program.  Provides consumer-level downloadable brochures on topics to help patients understand the care they receive.

Professional Groups

The IOM Health Literacy Roundtable brings together leaders from academia, industry, government, foundations and associations, and representatives of patient and consumer interests who work to improve health literacy. The Roundtable discusses challenges facing health literacy practice and research and identifies approaches to promote health literacy.

The Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) publishes books and teacher manuals, organizes annual CE health literacy conference, adminsters a health literacy discussion list, and organizes a large collection of health literacy resources for practitioners and educators.

Harvard's Health Literacy Studies (School of Public Health) website provides a wealth of information for professionals in health and education who are interested in health literacy.  With curricula for adult education programs, medical, and public health graduate courses, resources on creating and assessing written materials and websites, and plain language glossaries.

Special Content Areas