Be a Health Literacy Hero!

Dec 9, 2021

Did you know that only about 12% of adults in the United States have good health literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services?

Health information can be difficult to understand; while those who struggle with literacy are affected, so are many others who get lost in medical terminology of information communicated by their doctor, in flyers, or online. Health illiteracy can lead to a host of issues including missed screenings for things like breast cancer, skipping important medical tests, taking medication incorrectly, having a more difficult time managing chronic health conditions, and increased visits to the emergency room. Anxiety can reduce the ability to manage health information. Age related challenges such as changes to vision, hearing, and cognition can influence the ability of older adults to process health information.

Here are some tips to use before, during, and after your medical appointment to make sure you get the best possible care. One way you can make sure you get good quality healthcare is to be an active member of your healthcare team. Patients who ask questions and make sure they understand the answers tend to get more timely, accurate diagnoses and have better outcomes.

Make a list of your symptoms before you go in, have questions written down, and take a few notes when your doctor is explaining things to you.

Bring a complete list of medications you take to the next appointment.

Bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment, if possible.

Ask questions.Repeat what your doctor tells you in your own words.

Improve your communication with health professionals.

Ask to work with a patient navigator if one is available.

Make sure you know who to call with any questions when you leave.

Attend health education programs at a library, community center, or anywhere you can find them in your community.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

For more information on increasing your health literacy, visit

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