Health literacy is the ability to read, understand, and act on health care information
Healthy People 2010 defines health literacy as:
the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.
The AMA Council of Scientific Affairs more specifically defines functional health literacy as:
the ability to read and comprehend prescription bottles, appointment slips, and the other essential health-related materials required to successfully function as a patient.
The Calgary Charter further defines health literacy as:
the use of a wide range of skills that improve the ability of people to act on information in order to live healthier lives. These skills include reading, writing, listening, speaking, numeracy, and critical analysis, as well as communication and interaction skills.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality commissioned the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to develop and test this Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit. Universal precautions refers to taking specific actions that minimize risk for everyone when it is unclear which patients may be affected. The toolkit offers primary care practices a way to assess their services for health literacy considerations, raise awareness of the entire staff, and work on specific areas.