What is Health Literacy 101

What is the Definition of Health Literacy?

Health literacy allows the public and personnel working in all health-related contexts to find, understand, evaluate, communicate, and use information. Health literacy is the use of a wide range of skills that improve the ability of people to act on information in order to live healthier lives. These skills include reading, writing, listening, speaking, numeracy, and critical analysis, as well as communication and interaction skills.”

Source: Calgary Charter on Health Literacy


What Is Health Literacy?

Our health system is complex.

When people are in contact with health information, they may be feeling sick, nervous, or confused. This compromises their “health literacy” – the ability to find, understand, evaluate, communicate, and use information. Health communicators also rely on health literacy skills to help make information easy to understand and act on.

Health literacy is not about blaming or shaming. It is about creating alignment and mutual understanding. It is about teaching, acquiring and applying skills. It is about equity and making health information useful for all.

What is the Importance of Health Literacy?

Citizens, coworkers, government workers, and everyone in-between need to have strong health literacy to be able to make informed decisions about their health, about public and private health-related policies, and how to navigate complicated healthcare systems.

Learn How You Can Join the Health Literacy Conversation

If you want to learn more about teaching health literacy, improving your community's health, or how to talk to policy makers about what is important in the healthcare world, you can join our free Health Literacy Board to discuss tactics and studies with industry professionals.

An Introduction to Health Literacy Video Presentation

Michael Villaire, MSLM, CEO at the Institute of Healthcare Advancement presents an introduction to the justifications, needs, history and impact health literacy plays within the complex facets of healthcare. This one hour video presentation is from the 17th Annual Health Literacy Conference titled "Strengthening Communities to Improve Health Equity and Health Literacy".

Take a self-guided tour of the Health Literacy Ecosystem

The Health Literacy Ecosystem offers an overview of the skills and knowledge, settings and sources, audiences, and communication formats that are foundational to our field. Navigate within and across spheres, or dive into a topic and connect to resources. We welcome your contributions.