The Importance of Healthcare Literacy in Healthcare Marketing

Pill bottle

Did you know that nearly 9 out of 10 adults don’t have the literacy skills they need to manage their health? The National Assessment of Health Literacy found that only 12 percent of adults have proficient heath literacy, and what’s more, 14 percent of adults have health literacy levels considered “below basic.”

Health literacy extends beyond reading to numeracy. Imagine not being able to measure medication dosages, understand a nutrition label, or know when your blood sugar is too high.

Adults with low health literacy are sicker, less likely to be insured, and rack up higher healthcare costs. They have difficulty navigating the healthcare system and managing their conditions. They have higher rates of hospitalization and are less likely to use preventive services.

So what can we, as healthcare marketers and communicators, do? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the following tips:

  • Make sure the information is appropriate for the reader and easy to use.
  • Keep it simple. Limit the number of messages.
  • Use plain language. Keep language familiar and organized into short sentences and paragraphs. Avoid jargon. Use the active voice.
  • Focus on action. Clearly state the specific behaviors and actions you want the reader to adopt.
  • Use visuals that offer cues to the content of your messages. Make them culturally relevant to your audience.
  • Design for easy reading. Keep font sizes and styles large and legible. Create access points such as captions, bullets and subheadings.


Get more information on plain language or healthcare literacy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.