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Health Literacy

Health literacy is the ability to understand and act on basic health information. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S.—90 million people—have trouble understanding and using health information.

Low health literacy and low numeracy (the ability to reason and apply simple numerical concepts) affect a person's health status more than any other factors, including education, income, employment, or race. People may speak English well, yet still have low health literacy. People with low health literacy are less likely to seek preventive care and follow prescribed treatments. They tend to stay in the hospital longer than those with higher health literacy and are often ashamed to ask for help in making health care decisions.

In October 2007, Stratis Health presented one of its first Building Healthier Communities awards to the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership (MHLP), a coalition of health care consumers and literacy groups that together with the state's health and social service agencies and provider organizations, educates providers and consumers about health literacy, and aims to empower patients to ask for clear communication, and share health literacy resources. With funding from the Building Healthier Communities award, the partnership worked statewide to provide a greater awareness of health literacy. MHLP is an independently funded program of the Minnesota Literacy Council.

The Stratis Health Building Healthier Communities award supports health literacy and other important initiatives that have the potential to help grow an appreciation for the culture of health care quality in Minnesota.


Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership. An independently funded program of the Minnesota Literacy Council that aims to train health care providers about health literacy, empower patients to ask for clear communication, and share health literacy resources. Read more about the work of this organization:

  • Teach-Back Program: What does your patient really understand?
    The teach-back method of patient education validates patients’ under­standing of the information they receive from a health care provider, and allows providers to evaluate how well they communicated the information. Review the following online teach-back materials and build teach-back into your health care delivery process.
    • Video with  an effective teach-back example
    • PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes
    • Program guide with activities and ideas for building a successful program
  • Papers and articles to help your organization improve health literacy for your patients:

The American Medical Association Foundation Health Literacy Kit. Provides strategies to help people who struggle with low health literacy become a partner in their own health care.