Health Literacy, Readability, and Patient Education Materials

Health Literacy

Health literacy is defined by the AMA as the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services necessary to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment. A proficient or competent level of health literacy is a skill patients need in an era of increasing self-care regimens and physician specialization.  However, 36% percent of all American adults have only a basic or below basic literacy level, according to a 2003 survey conducted by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

Combine this lack of health literacy with the portion of the population that is functionally illiterate, and we have about 90 million Americans who do not possess the health literacy needed to understand the patient education materials or patient product inserts (PPIs) they receive.


To turn your well-crafted patient education materials into those that can actually assist a patient requires an understanding of health literacy and readability -- and the skill to take your ideas and translate them into meaningful materials.

WordsWork Consulting knows that.  We have more than a decade of experience measuring readability and the reading grade levels of patient information.  We also have the skill and experience needed to revise patient education material to a fifth or sixth grade level, meeting the current recommendations -- to meet even the needs of those who lack any health literacy -- of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, and the National Work Group on Literacy and Health.

Health Literacy and WordsWork

Send us your PPIs or educational materials.  We will help you understand where it fits on the health literacy scale. We will give you report of its current readability level based on the Fry, Gunning-Fog, and Flesch Kincaid reading formulas.  We will also provide you a revision of your work, that brings the document(s) into compliance with current health literacy reading level recommendations – and a report of the revision’s readability level.

Email or call us 617-285-9068 for more information.


-- updated November 17, 2007