October is Health Literacy Month. It is a great time for individuals and organizations to promote the importance of understandable health information. 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.

In the United States, only 12 percent or nearly one in ten adults have proficient health literacy. Low health literacy often results in poor health outcomes and higher medical costs. Older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, people with low socio-economic status, people with less education and people with limited English proficiency are more likely to experience low health literacy.  There are strategies to improve health literacy.  Some strategies include text appearance, visuals, layout and design, culture, utilization of plain language and testing for readability, teach-back, Ask Me 3 and more.

The Health Literacy Month theme this year is “Be a Healthy Literacy Hero.” The theme encourages individuals and organizations to take action and find ways to improve health communication. Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams or organizations who identify health literacy issues and act to solve them. You can help by recognizing and cheering on those you consider to be Health Literacy Heroes. The Health Literacy Month Handbook: The Event Planning Guide for Health Literacy Advocates is a great resource to help you plan for Health Literacy Month. A series of free health literacy education webinars are also available to help improve your knowledge of health literacy.

Our Arizona Health Disparities Center works with its community partners to address health literacy issues. For more information, visit the Arizona Health Disparities Center website.