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Health Literacy : What is Health Literacy?

What is Health Literacy?

This health literacy guide is focused on serving the health professional community at UW-Madison and UW Health. We have gathered a variety of resources focused on effective practitioner-to-patient communication and developing overall health literacy. If you are a consumer (not a health professional) and are interested in increasing your personal health literacy, please see Ebling Library's Consumer Health Guide.

Health literacy is one of the most important topics to understand when speaking with patients today. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, "Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions" (HRSA, 2019). Often, low health literacy rates are high among "older adults, minority populations, those with low socioeconomic status, and medically underserved people" (HRSA, 2019). As healthcare professionals, there are several ways to address low health literacy and help patients better understand things like prognosis, treatment, and long-term care. The purpose of this guide is to provide you with resources to create an environment conducive to patients with varying health literacy skills.

For more information about health literacy in general, start with these webpages from HRSA and the NNLM. For health literacy training materials geared toward health professionals, explore the different sections of this guide.