The Purpose of Health Literacy Month

Why is health literacy a problem?

Studies consistently show that a significant number of people have problems reading, understanding, and acting on health information, and there are a number of reasons why. For one thing, health information is inherently complex, and health providers are not necessarily skilled communicators. Additionally, patients bring a wide range of learning needs to the healthcare experience. Basic literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context, and emotional responses can all affect the way people receive and process information — and the way people process information, in turn, has a direct impact on health outcomes and cost.


How does Health Literacy Month Play its Role?

The idea behind Health Literacy Month is the same now as it was when I first proposed it in 1999. Health Literacy Month is a time of observance when hospitals, health centers, literacy programs, libraries, social service agencies, businesses, professional associations, government agencies, consumer alliances, and many other groups can work collaboratively to draw attention to, and develop local capacity for, addressing this important issue.

There is no right or wrong way to participate. Groups (alone or in partnership with others) create events that match their interests, resources, and community needs. There are numerous ways to initiate an event and this website is here to help you do that!

Some examples are:

  • Hospitals may host health literacy educational workshops for their employees or for the general public.
  • Senior centers often run prescription safety sessions.
  • A literacy program might sponsor a health literacy fair.
  • A library can display samples of effective consumer health information.
  • A school may publish a health literacy newsletter.
  • Employers sometimes sponsor educational programs for employees focusing on well-ness and disease prevention.
  • Some states have even officially proclaimed October as Health Literacy Month.