Health Literacy

Dr. Kate Brostoff
Senior Medical Director at CHPW

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Only 12% of adults in the US have proficient health literacy. Over a third of US adults have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart. Limited health literacy affects adults in all racial and ethnic groups and across socio-economic class. To improve health outcomes, patients have to be engaged and feel that they have a voice in making decisions about their care. In order to do that we, as providers of care, have to be sure they understand what we are communicating. Here are a few tips from the Health Literate Care Model:

  • Approach all patients as if they are at risk of not understanding health information.
  • Employ a range of strategies for clear communication (pictures, videos, etc).
  • Confirm patients’ understanding (ask open-ended questions or use the teach-back method).

Additional resources and best practices for health communication can be found at