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Health Literacy

Understanding health information is everyone's right. For patients, it means being able to follow instructions from a doctor, nurse or pharmacist; manage a chronic illness; and/or take medication properly. For health care practitioners, it is about helping patients understand and act on health care information” [Pfizer, 2004]


The Medical Library Association (MLA) Task Force on Health Information Literacy has developed a working definition of health information literacy and framed it within two larger concepts-health literacy and information literacy. 


Health Literacy is …
”...the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” [Healthy People 2010, 2000]

Information Literacy is …
”...a set of abilities enabling individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." [American Library Association, 1989]

Working Definition of Health Information Literacy:
”Health Information Literacy is the set of abilities needed to: recognize a health information need; identify likely information sources and use them to retrieve relevant information; assess the quality of the information and its applicability to a specific situation; and analyze, understand, and use the information to make good health decisions.”

Listed below are resources to help you learn more about Health Literacy:


AMA: Helping Doctors Help Patients

American Medical Association Foundation, Health Literacy Kit

Harvard School of Public Health: Health Literacy Studies

Health Literacy Consulting

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

The National Institute for Literacy


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