Improving Health Literacy: Why Clear Communication Matters



Did you know that 9 out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information? Low health literacy can affect one's ability to:


• Read prescription drug labels • Fill out medical forms • Locate health providers


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”


Health literacy challenges are more common among:


  • Older adults

  • Minority populations

  • Those who have low socioeconomic status

  • Medically underserved populations


Patients can become confused when using medications or navigating a complex health care system. But clear communications can play a critical role in making information user-friendly and actionable.


Improving Health Literacy


Health literacy can be improved with plain language writing and proper training of health professionals. Important strategies and techniques include:


  • Using familiar concepts, words, numbers and images presented in ways that make sense to patients who need the information.

  • Applying Federal plain language guidelines.

  • Testing information with the audience before it is released and asking for feedback to improve health literacy and understanding.


Learn more about Clearfont's health communications services.

Clearfont Media is a Maryland public relations, marketing and communications firm that delivers a full spectrum of services designed for a digital world.

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