What is health literacy?
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, communicate, process, and understand information about health. People need health literacy skills to make good decisions about their health.
Nearly 9 of every 10 adults do not have the basic health literacy skills they need to fully manage their health (Quick Guide to Health Literacy Fact Sheet: Health Literacy Basics, US Department of Health and Human Services).
We can help!
The Education and Training department helps MaineHealth organizations improve their patient communication by providing these services free to MaineHealth organizations:
- Staff trainings about patient-centered communication techniques, including health literacy, plain language, and teach-back.
- Material review and development, including readability assessments.
- Testing materials for usability with focus groups, individual interviews, and user testing.
Why does health literacy matter?
Health literacy has a significant impact on health outcomes and the use of health services. People with low health literacy skills are at risk of the following:
- Decreased use of preventive services, such as mammograms or colon cancer screenings.
- More likely to have a chronic condition but less likely to know how to manage it.
- More likely to go to the hospital or ED.
- More likely to report poor health status.
- Increased use of costly health services.
What can you do?
There are many things you can do to help patients understand and use health information. Evidence-based approaches include:
- Using plain language when communicating with patients and their families.
- Using teach-back with patients and their families to check for understanding.
- Completing a health literacy training.