Health Literacy


“If we want health equity, we need to make health literacy a priority.”
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, A.B., B.A., Secretary of Health and Human Services

The following are resources that can be used by PA educators to teach PA students how to improve patient care for individuals with low health literacy.


White, S. Assessing the Nation’s health literacy. Key Concepts and Findings of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) 2008.
PDF download available at the AMA website. Interpretation of the data from the 2003 NAAL.

Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. (CHCS).
This series of fact sheets was created to help clinicians, patient advocates, and other stakeholders improve care for individuals with low health literacy. The fact sheets define health literacy; describe ways to identify low health literacy; provide strategies to improve print and oral communication for low-literate consumers; provide information about the intersection of health literacy and culture; and highlight key policies relating to health literacy.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit 2nd edition.
The AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit can help primary care practices reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels. The toolkit contains a great 6-minute VIDEO.

AMA Foundation. Health Literacy and Patient Safety: Help Patients Understand.
This educational kit is the AMA Foundation’s primary tool for informing physicians, health care professionals and patient advocates about health literacy. The health literacy kit includes an instructional video on DVD, an in-depth manual for clinicians and additional resources for education and involvement. The AMA 2007 Health Literacy Program VIDEO, “Health literacy and patient safety: Help patients understand”, is 23 minutes long and can be accessed at

Always Use Teach Back!. Training Toolkit.
The purpose of this toolkit is to help all health care providers learn to use teach-back—every time it is indicated—to support patients and families throughout the care continuum, especially during transitions between health care settings. It includes a VIDEO, “Why Use Teach-back? A Patient Story–Inadvertent Overdose” which can also be accessed at



JPAE articles
Byous R. Health Literacy: The Impact It Has on Access to Health Care Services. Should This Be a Part of All PA Programs’ Coursework? The Journal of Physician Assistant Education. 2002; 13(2):111.



AMA Health Literacy Program.
The AMA Foundation has been working to raise awareness of health literacy through its toolkits, patient safety monographs and reports.

North Carolina Program on Health Literacy Website (funded by AHQR).
This site has numerous resources for teaching, including VIDEOS on the Teach-Back method, presentations, literary assessment tools, etc.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Health Literacy.
This site provides information and tools to improve health literacy and public health. These resources are for all organizations that interact and communicate with people about health.

Plain Language.Gov.
The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a group of federal employees from many different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing. Their topic page on Health Literacy is full of resources.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Health Resources and Services Administration.
Free on-line course: five modules that will take approximately five hours to complete. “Effective Communication Tools for Healthcare Professionals: Addressing Health Literacy, Cultural Competency, and Limited English Proficiency (LEP)”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Training and Continuing Education On-Line
Free on-line course – “Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals” – has three modules that will take approximately one hour to complete.