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. 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.
What Are Health Literacy Universal Precautions?
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health
information and services needed to make appropriate decisions. Over a third
of patients have limited health literacy, which results in their not understanding
what they need to do to take care of their health. Limited health literacy
is associated with poor management of chronic diseases, poor ability to understand
and adhere to medication regimes, increased hospitalizations, and poor health outcomes.
Universal precautions refers to taking specific actions that minimize risk
for everyone when it is unclear which patients may be affected. For example,
health care workers take universal precautions when they minimize the risk
of bloodborne disease by using gloves and proper disposal techniques. Health
literacy universal precautions are needed because providers don't always
know which patients have limited health literacy.
How Can This Toolkit Help?
Experts recommend assuming that everyone may have difficulty understanding
and creating an environment where all patients can thrive. Research suggests
that clear communication practices and removing literacy-related barriers will
improve care for all patients, regardless of their level of health literacy.
This toolkit is designed to help adult and pediatric practices ensure that
systems are in place to promote better understanding by all patients, not just
those you think need extra assistance. The toolkit is divided into manageable
chunks so that its implementation can fit into the busy day of a practice.
It contains the following:
- Quick Start Guide.
- Path to Improvement (6 steps to take to implement the toolkit).
- 20 Tools (2-5 pages each).
- Appendices (over 25 resources such as sample forms, PowerPoint presentations,
Select to download a copy of the toolkit (PDF
file, 3.9 MB; Plugin Software Help).
Additional resources related to this toolkit are located at: http://www.nchealthliteracy.org/toolkit/
For information about how the toolkit was developed, see the article, "Developing and testing the health literacy universal precautions toolkit." Select to access an abstract of the article.
AHRQ Publication No. 10-0046-EF
Current as of April 2010
Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit. AHRQ
Publication No. 10-0046-EF, April 2010. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality. http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/literacy/index.html