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Are You Doing Enough? The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

We're coming up on the 11th anniversary of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. And, we thought it was a good time to reflect on what you and your organization are doing to improve your consumers' health literacy.

So, ask yourself: “Am I doing enough to promote health literacy?”

Let’s be honest, most of us could probably be doing a better job—especially if you don’t have a clear understanding of this National Action Plan. To make sure we are all on the same page, let’s start with the basics of The Plan and then explore how you can start putting it into action.

The Basics

Even though the concept of health literacy started gaining steam within the academic community in the 1990s, it wasn’t until May of 2010 that it finally had its big moment. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, finally giving the health literacy movement credibility as a substantial issue.

books in a library

The Plan outlines seven goals (with accompanying strategies) for all organizations to use as a guide for improving health literacy. Yes, all health-related organizations. The Action Plan calls on all sectors of the healthcare industry to do their part, making a statement that health literacy isn’t an individual’s issue—it’s a systemic issue.

Resource: Download the full National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

What are the Goals?1

  1. Health information: Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable
  2. Clinical practice: Promote changes in the healthcare delivery system that improve information, communication, informed decision-making, and access to health services
  3. Early childhood through university education: Incorporate accurate and standards-based health and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula into child-care and education through the university level
  4. Community-based services: Support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English-language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community
  5. Partnership and collaboration: Build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies
  6. Research and evaluation: Increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy
  7. Use of evidence-based practice: Increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions
eldery couple on a bench

Why Is The Plan Important?

If you take a closer look at The Plan's goals above, you’ll notice that they aren’t just about providing understandable health information.

Why? Because health literacy requires action.

We need to ensure that we're providing education that is both informational and actionable. It’s up to us—every organization within the health industry—to develop tools that motivate learning and participation, help patients successfully navigate the complex healthcare system, and ultimately raise our consumers' health literacy.

Turning The Plan into Action

Are you waiting for the system to change? Are you waiting for the academic communities to come up with the solution? If so, the barriers won’t be removed, and health literacy won’t improve within our society.

We need to work together.

To help you think through your organization’s approach to health literacy, here are three questions to ask yourself from Cynthia Baur, the lead author of The Action Plan.2

  1. What practices in your organization create a health literacy barrier?
  2. Which of the seven goal areas fit your organization's priorities?
  3. What is one thing you can do this week to use information from the Action Plan in your work?
Bottom line: The solution to health literacy isn’t going to be found in the government; it’s going to be found in innovation.

And that’s precisely what we’ve done at Leveling Health. We have transformed the way medical information is presented. We aren’t just constructing theories; we are applying them through our innovative approaches to health education.

We are health literacy experts that know what it’s like to be lost in the healthcare system because we’ve experienced it. Powered by a team of medical and non-medical experts, we know the science, but we also know what it’s like to be a patient.

page of breast cancer survivorship book

If you find health literacy best practices to be abstract or need help tackling your comprehensive plan, we're here to help! By working with Leveling Health, you get the benefits of more educated patients without the frustration.

Request your FREE sample kit to see what we are talking about.
  1. Baur C, Harris L, Squire E. The US National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy: A Model for Positive Organizational Change. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2017;240:186-202. 
  2. Using the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy - Full Transcript - Health Literacy Discussion List - Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). LINCS. https://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/healthliteracy/10action_transcript. Published August 15, 2012. Accessed January 12, 2021. 

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