Health Literacy & Patient Education

Terri Ottosen, MLIS, AHIP

Terri Ottosen's picture
Terri Ottosen


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.

Assessing the Literacy Level of Patients