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North Carolina Health Literacy: Health Literacy at UNC

This guide serves as the information hub for health literacy resources and efforts at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as throughout the state of North Carolina.

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About Us

The North Carolina Health Literacy website serves as the information hub for health literacy resources and efforts at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as throughout the state of North Carolina. Our work includes outreach to rural and underserved communities. We offer workshops and training for students, educators and health care workers on health literacy principles. We also provide information on strategies and tools to incorporate health literacy into practice in order to improve health outcomes.

NC Health Literacy was established by the Sheps Center for Health Services Research in 2007. Today, we are an integral part of the Health Sciences Library. The Health Sciences Library supports the work of the University to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State by connecting people everywhere with knowledge to improve health.

Health Literacy at UNC

At Carolina, we are dedicated to help improve health outcomes by promoting health literacy awareness and skill development to both health care providers and consumers. On this page you will find information about health literacy activities that support our mission on campus and beyond.


Health Literacy Data Map

The Health Literacy Data Map provides an interactive, searchable, national map of health literacy estimates for neighborhoods throughout the United States. The map was developed by Dr. Gang Fang and Dr. Stacy Bailey of UNC, Chapel Hill. Click anywhere on the map to get started. (If the site is not displaying correctly, please use the Firefox browser to access the map.)


Engaging for Health in Rural and Underserved North Carolina Communities

In spring 2019 a team of four librarians at UNC’s Health Sciences Library (HSL) including Nandita Mani, Michelle Cawley, Terri Ottosen, and Megan Fratta, received an All of Us Community Engagement Project Award from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) to conduct a health literacy outreach project to reach rural and underserved communities in North Carolina. The aims of the project were to:

  • Train public library staff on providing consumer health information services in their communities and build their capacity to make use of National Library of Medicine resources to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities.
  • Enable public library staff to offer the Engage for Health program at their libraries. This program empowers patients to ask questions of their doctors, take an active role in their healthcare, and enable them to better communicate with their healthcare providers in order to make informed decisions.

Using data from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the team identified five libraries in areas of the state with low health literacy levels to partner with. We led two-part train-the-trainer sessions at five libraries. The first part of the training was designed to increase library staff capacity and knowledge around health literacy and consumer health information resources. We introduced two consumer health information resources: and, both of which are excellent starting points for health information searches. In part two, we introduced library staff to the “Engage for Health” program, which is intended to be presented to community members to encourage them to engage in conversation with their health care providers. It covers the importance of asking questions, includes a role play script to practice asking questions, and then introduces several trustworthy health information resources including MedlinePlus. This “program in a box” curriculum is available to download from NNLM’s website and includes a toolkit with presentation slides, speaker notes, role play exercises, pre-post evaluation forms, and promotional materials. Two of the libraries held at least one Engage for Health session prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the 5 train-the-trainer sessions, we reached 57 public library staff from 12 public libraries throughout the state. The map provides a geographic representation of the communities that were reached through this grant project. In evaluations, participants commented that the training was informative and helpful, particularly when assisting people with health questions, but also useful for themselves, friends, and family.


Impact Measurement and Visualization

The Impact Measurement and Visualization (IMV) team and librarians at the Health Sciences Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) have partnered with NC Health Literacy to create these data visualizations representing publications by UNC-affiliated researchers on the topic of health literacy. These publications were collected by searching PubMed and Scopus bibliographic databases. The two data visualizations below present collaborations between UNC Schools and the health literacy topics examined within the publications.


Organizational Analysis

Visualization represents collaborations within UNC, regarding the field of health literacy (last updated June, 2023).


Topic Analysis

Visualization represents the range of health literacy topics published by researchers at UNC. The topic words were selected from the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms associated with each of the publications (last updated June, 2023).

Terri Ottosen, MLIS, AHIP

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Terri Ottosen