National Patient Safety Foundation health literacy month

3 Oct 2014 | Partners in Care

October is the National Patient Safety Foundation's (NPSF) health literacy month. 

According to the 2010 National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly nine out of 10 US adults have difficulty using the everyday health information that is routinely available in US health care facilities, retail outlets, media and communities.

The Institute of Medicine 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. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that only 12 percent of US adults are proficient in health literacy and able to use health information effectively.

Limited health literacy is a serious issue facing patients; it has been linked to poor health outcomes, high resource utilisation, and poor comprehension.

A provider's communication skills can directly influence a patient's health literacy and comprehension. Use the following clear communication strategies with all patients, regardless of their apparent health literacy skills:[1-5]

  • Slow down
  • Limit, and repeat, information at every visit
  • Avoid medical jargon
  • Use illustrations to explain important concepts
  • Use easy-to-read written materials
  • Make visits interactive; encourage questions
  • Use “teach-back” to gauge comprehension.

For more information on the NPSF visit their website by clicking the link below.

Last updated 16/10/2021