An Updated Overview of Health Literacy

Health literacy, or the ability of a person to access, understand and use health information, impacts numerous aspects of individual and community health. In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) found that over one-third of adults in a nationally representative sample suffered from basic or below basic health literacy. Subsequent studies have shown that low health literacy is associated with worse health status, higher mortality rates and negative health outcomes. Medical societies and other organizations have created a series of guidelines and recommendations for improving care in the setting of low health literacy. These recommendations include implementing universal health literacy precautions, allowing HCPs to improve communication with all of their patients, regardless of patient language, age, education or literacy level. Additional recommendations for improving communication include providing reading material at or below a fifth grade reading level, using visual aids and pictures, avoiding medical jargon, breaking down instructions into actionable steps and checking back with patients to assess comprehension. Implementing these changes on organizational and personal levels will improve patients' self-efficacy and ensure they are better able to access, understand and utilize health information. This activity will review the challenges inherent in caring for patients with low health literacy and will describe how to implement universal health literacy precautions to improve communication and patient care.

This activity is part of the Health Literacy Knowledge Self-Assessment, one of two maintenance of certification (MOC) activities, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) through a contract with the University of Colorado, Denver and its subcontractor the University of North Carolina (contract # 290-2007-10008 Task Order 10). The MOC activities are part of AHRQ’s health literacy program to promote health literate health care organizations that make it easier for patients to understand health information and navigate health care systems.

Click here to complete Improving Health Literacy by Improving Communication Skills, activity II, of the activity set.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this educational activity, participants should be able to

  1. Recognize how low health literacy negatively impacts multiple aspects of patient health and well-being
  2. Review the definition of health care literacy and understand the scope of the problem
  3. Discuss factors health care providers should consider when assessing patient health literacy
  4. Describe the different types of health literacy and how providers can overcome barriers associated with each type of literacy
  5. Explain how implementing universal precautions may benefit all patients, regardless of health literacy levels

Disclosures of Relevant Financial Relationships
In accordance with the ACCME Standards for Commercial SupportSM, OptumHealth Education requires all those involved in the development of activity content to disclose their relevant financial relationships. An individual has a relevant financial relationship if such person (or their spouse/partner) has a financial relationship in any amount occurring in the last 12 months with a commercial interest whose products or services are discussed in the activity content over which the individual has control.
OptumHealth Education ensures that the content is independent of commercial bias.

Activity Planners
Diane Cempellin DNP, MSHA, RN
Director Clinical Programs
Healthcare Transformation, UnitedHealth Group Alliances

Sarah Chart-Hart, RN
Senior Director
OptumHealth Education

Rebecca Gleason, RN, CCM
Activity Manager
OptumHealth Education

Ann McKnight, BA
Sr. Project Manager II
UnitedHealth Group Alliances

V. Silverstein, MD
Eagle Creek Medical Communications

Patricia Walsh, RN, BAS
Director, Clinical Programs
Healthcare Transformation, UnitedHealth Group Alliances

Activity Planner Disclosures
Ms Cempellin, Ms Chart, Ms Gleason, Ms McKnight and Ms Walsh reported that they are employees of and own stock in UnitedHealth Group.
Dr Silverstein has nothing to report.

Method of Participation
There are no fees for participating in or receiving credit for this activity.
For information on applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity, please consult your professional licensing board.

Participants will receive a certificate upon successful completion of the activity, which includes the following:

  • Completing the entire activity
  • Completing the Pre- and Post-Activity Assessments, Activity Evaluation, and Application for Certificate of Credit form

You must be logged into your account to participate in this activity. Get started by clicking “Begin” and viewing the “CE Info”; then follow the prompts at the bottom of the screen. At the end of the activity, you will be able to view, save, or print your certificate of participation. The Area of Practice you indicated in your profile corresponds with your certificate type. A complete listing of all of your activities can be found under “My Account”, “My Activities.”

Accreditation Statement
This activity has been planned and implemented by OptumHealth Education and UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. OptumHealth Education is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.

Credit Designation Statements
OptumHealth Education designates this enduring activity for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

The participant will be awarded up to 1.00 contact hour(s) of credit for attendance and completion of supplemental materials.

A certificate of attendance will be provided to learners upon completion of activity requirements, enabling participants to register with licensing boards or associations that have not been pre-approved for credits. To apply for credit types not listed above, participants should use the procedure established by the specific organization to which you wish you apply credit.

Method for Calculating CE Credit
CE credit was calculated by the complexity of content.

Provided By
This activity is jointly provided by OptumHealth Education and UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement.

Commercial Support
There was no commercial support received for this activity.

Hardware/Software Requirements
To view this activity you will need Internet Explorer 7.0+ or Firefox 3.0+ with Windows Media Player 9+, RealPlayer 12+, or Adobe Flash Player 9+. Be sure to disable your pop-up blocking software prior to the beginning of this activity.

Target Audience

This activity is designed to meet the educational needs of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals (HCPs) who have an interest in health literacy.

Activity summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.00 AMA - Physicians
  • 1.00 ANCC - Nurses
  • 1.00 Attendance - General Attendance
Activity opens: 
Activity expires: 

Available Credit

  • 1.00 AMA - Physicians
  • 1.00 ANCC - Nurses
  • 1.00 Attendance - General Attendance
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