National Network of Libraries of Medicine
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Promoting Health Literacy Through Easy-to-Read Materials

Health literacy includes not only finding and understanding health information, but acting on that information to make appropriate health decisions. For many who struggle with basic literacy, health-related tasks such as understanding patient care instructions, reading prescription labels, keeping appointments, and signing consent forms become extremely difficult. In addition, low health literacy has very tangible associated costs, including poor disease management, increased percentage of repeat hospital visits, and incorrect medication use.

This hands-on class will discuss the frequent disconnect between information providers and information seekers. The success of "plain language" initiatives and the importance of text, type, graphics, "white" space, and layout for maximum readability will be covered. Several tools used to evaluate the readability of print materials and patient literacy levels (e.g., Fry, SMOG, REALM, TOFHLA) will be introduced.  Participants will have the opportunity to review print materials and websites for their adherence to easy-to-read principles. Websites developed by the National Library of Medicine and other reputable organizations will be introduced. Participants will be motivated to use health information materials to promote increased levels of health literacy in the populations they serve.


At the conclusion of the class, participants will be able to:

  • Understand various definitions of health literacy and its importance to patient care.
  • Identify factors which may contribute to low levels of health literacy.
  • Be aware of the role of cultural competency in health literacy.
  • Use basic principles of "plain language" to review, evaluate, select, and/or rewrite materials which adhere to easy-to-read principles.
  • Identify key players in health literacy awareness and advocacy.

Class Materials

Resources Handout

Continuing Education

Upon successful completion of this class each participant will receive 4 hours of continuing education credit awarded by the Medical Library Association.

Kelli Ham, MLIS, Community Engagement Librarian
Continuing Education:

4 MLA CE Contact Hours

This class is eligible for Consumer Health Information Specialization continuing education credit awarded by the Medical Library Association.

Past Classes

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