About Health Literacy
The health literacy field has evolved over several decades. Its initial focus was on individuals who had poor literacy skills. Now there is a broad recognition that everyone—not just those with limited literacy—face challenges in understanding health information and navigating the healthcare system. Acknowledging that the healthcare system is overly complex, healthcare organizations have started to take responsibility to ensure that everyone, especially the vulnerable, is able to find, understand, and use health information and services.
Addressing health literacy is a national priority. Most recently, Healthy People 2030, which establishes national objectives for health improvement, has included “attaining health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all” as one of its five overarching goals. Healthy People 2030 also adopted two definitions that together constitute health literacy.
Personal Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
Organizational Health Literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
AHRQ's Role in Improving Health Literacy
AHRQ provides national health literacy leadership. AHRQ’s health literacy work spans from developing improvement tools, to designing professional training and education, to funding and synthesizing health literacy research. Find out about AHRQ Impact Case Studies that describe the use and impact of AHRQ-funded health literacy tools by healthcare systems, clinicians, academics, and other professionals.
Personal health literacy is a social determinant of health. To learn about AHRQ’s work on social determinants of health, visit www.ahrq.gov/sdoh.
Sign up for email updates on AHRQ's health literacy and cultural competence work here.
Have questions about AHRQ's health literacy work? Email email@example.com.
HHS Health Literacy Resources
View health literacy resources from other agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Clear Communication (National Institutes of Health)
- Health Literacy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Health Literacy (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- Health Literacy (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- Health Literacy Online: A Guide for Simplifying the User Experience (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- Health Literacy in Healthy People 2030
- MedlinePlus Easy-to-Read (National Library of Medicine)
- MedlinePlus Health Information in Multiple Languages
- Plain Language: Getting Started or Brushing Up (National Institutes of Health)
- Risk Communication (Food and Drug Administration)
- Think Cultural Health (Office of Minority Health)
- Guidelines for effective writing (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)