This blog is contributed by Dr. Arthur Culbert, a member of the Global Health advisory board, and Executive Director of the non-profit organisation Health Literacy Missouri (HLM), USA. 

On May 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the
National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.  The long-awaited action plan is aimed at
making health information and services easier to understand and use. It seeks
to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals
and families around improving the health literacy of our nation.

The plan comes at an important time. More than 90 million people in the
United States have difficulty understanding and effectively using health
information such as following the directions on prescription drug labels or
understanding insurance forms. However, consumers are increasingly being asked
to take a greater role in managing their health, especially with the recent
passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which stresses

If health reform is to succeed we need to improve people’s health
literacy as well as make health information easier to understand. Studies show
that low health literacy can lead to more emergency room visits, a more
difficult time managing chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood
pressure and even death at a younger age.

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy lays out seven goals
focused on initiatives such as improving communication in the health care
system, building partnerships and incorporating relevant health and science
lessons into the educational system. For the complete list, go to

At Health Literacy Missouri, we are working on initiatives that address
each of the seven goals. Our efforts include disseminating health information
through our website (, online library database and social media. We also oversee 26 demonstration projects
throughout Missouri that are focused on improving health literacy on a
community level and we are raising awareness among state and national
professional organizations of the importance of health literacy.

We believe the national action plan is an opportunity to do even more to
improve health literacy and we welcome your comments and interest.

From Wendie Norris, editor Global Health:

  • To further raise awareness of this new field, an expert
    search for health literacy will be  available to OVID users. For subscribers
    of CAB-Direct, the searchstring is

    literacy" OR (de:"health education" OR de:(literacy AND health*)
    OR (cc:UU360 AND de:"health promotion"))) NOT de:"health care

  • Health Literacy is the theme for the July issue of our e-newsletter Global Health Knowledge Base, highlighting important articles found on our database.

For useful references from Global Health, see below:

  1. Double impact: educational attainment and the macronutrient intake
    of US adults
    . Variyam, J. N.  from "Health, nutrition and food
    demand" 2003, pp. 53-72. Book Chapter. Fulltext available in our
    Global Health repository.
  2. Special issue: Education for informed citizenship.
    Revista Brasileira de Saúde Materno Infantil 2007 Vol. 7 No. Suplemento.1
    pp. S1-S226.
  3. Health literacy: collaborating to educate professionals.Journal
    of Consumer Health on the Internet 2010 Vol. 14 No. 2 pp. 184-192.
  4. A low-literacy medication education tool for safety-net
    hospital patients.
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2009 Vol.
    37 No. 6 Suppl. 1 pp. S209-S216.
  5. Experiences of prevention of mother to child transmission
    services by HIV+mothers in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
    Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance 2008 Vol. 14
    No. 1 pp. 63-87.
  6. Stroke awareness in two rural counties in
    Mississippi, USA
      Shiraz E. Medical Journal 2008 Vol. 9 No. 2
    pp. 68-74.


  1. woodlau on 31st July 2010 at 4:05 am

    Stomach fat is one of the biggest health risks facing the developed world today and the sad thing is that with the right, specifically designed, interval training workout schedule and a healthy,junk food free, diet the problem could be eleviated in a very short time.
    People with this problem definitely need to take make some serious adjustments to their lifestyle for their healths sake. Cheers w.

  2. SamRx on 11th October 2010 at 6:45 am

    Hi i like that article. It is very informative article.
    Plan to Improve Health Literacy
    1. Provides everyone with access to accurate and actionable health information
    2. Delivers person-centered health information and services
    3. Supports lifelong learning and skills to promote good health

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