What is Health Literacy?

What is Health Literacy?

According to the CDC, Health Literacy is: “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make well-informed health decisions.” Studies consistently show that a significant number of people have problems reading, understanding, and acting on health information. Have you ever been sitting in the doctor’s office listening to your doctor and you realize you have no idea what they are talking about? This is the case for the majority of patients.  

Why Does it Matter?

Patients with low health literacy have poorer health outcomes, take longer during their visits with health professionals, and use more health resources. 

Tips to Become More Health Literate:

  • Bring a notepad and pen to doctors appointments
  • Take notes while the doctor is speaking 
  • Bring a friend or family member for another set of listening ears
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask the doctor to rephrase something
  • Ask for more resources or information if needed

It is not the patient’s responsibility to translate what their doctor is telling them. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure about something, speak up and ask! More than likely, your physician will be more than willing to explain things again, or in another way. Take notes, ask for more resources or information! Advocating for your own health is one of the most important skills you can have. 

For more information on Health Literacy, please visit:

Health Literacy Solutions Center
'What is Health Literacy' from the CDC