Who are policy makers?
Policy makers shape the rules and regulations that govern health. While the federal government funds large portions of the nation’s health care (Medicaid and Medicare), much of health is regulated at the state level, usually by state-level departments of health. At the local level, policy makers can influence health through decisions about planning (number of parks and bike lanes) and zoning (access to housing and grocery stores) within communities.
Why does health literacy matter to policy makers?
The federal government is the largest health care payer and it has a constitutional obligation to promote the general welfare of its citizens. Whether the constitution includes a citizen’s right to understand health information is up for debate, but the passage of the Plain Writing Act in 2010 would indicate government values its citizens’ ability to understand and engage with federal communications. The law requires that federal agencies communicate clearly, following Federal Plain Language Guidelines.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is another example of how policy makers value and promote access to information. Section 508 requires federal agencies to make their information and communications technology (including websites) accessible for everyone. Many states have adopted 508 requirements but do not follow Federal Plain Language Guidelines.
Health communicators partner with these U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies to conduct research and put health literacy and plain language research into practice.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) – including the National Library of Medicine (NLM)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)