Patient Education Materials

Doctor showing pamphlet to patient

The following selection of patient education materials exemplifies the use of health literacy principles. Use them as a guide when developing your own materials.

For general guidelines on how to get started on creating your own patient education materials, see Simply Put: A guide for creating easy-to-understand materials by the CDC.



Association of Clinicians for the Underserved: Patient Education Materials on Using Insulin and General Diabetes

The ACU and the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation partnered to develop 40 educational handouts in both English and Spanish and at two literacy levels: low and very low. The handouts are free, available to download and distribute. And through a partnership with Home Diagnostics, a producer of glucometers, the ACU created education materials on diabetes for a low literate and multicultural population.

Both sets of handouts are available from the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

UNC researchers led initiatives to create literacy-sensitive materials related to COPD. The COPD self-management guide, Live Well With COPD: An Everyday Guide for You and Your Family covers areas such as living well with COPD, getting the most out of your medicines, becoming more active, and planning for when your breathing gets worse.

Living with COPD: An Everyday Guide for You and Your Family is available in English from the American College of Physicians

Diabetes Literacy and Numeracy Education Toolkit (DLNET)

The Diabetes Literacy and Numeracy Education Toolkit (DLNET) was designed to aid in the education and self-management of patients with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes regardless of their current medical regimen or health status.

Developed by a team led by Russell Rothman at Vanderbilt, the DLNET has been broken down into individual modules so that education can be customized to each patient. To avoid overwhelming patients with too much information, it is recommended that providers give patients the modules as they are needed. An emphasis is placed on limiting information to just the key concepts or behaviors needed for improved self-management. The toolkit includes over 24 chapters that can used in educating patients with diabetes – particularly those with poor literacy or numeracy skills.

DLNET materials, including the guide and a provider’s instruction manual are available in English through ResearchGate.

Diabetes Self-Management – “Living with Diabetes: An Everyday Guide for You and Your Family”

In 2005, researchers at UNC, the University of California at San Francisco, and Louisiana State University collaborated to develop a comprehensive self-care guide for patients living with diabetes. The patient-provider tool was issued in a conversational and easy-to-read magazine format and places heavy emphasis on action – what patients need to do each day to manage their diabetes – rather than on an exchange of information.  The guide resulted from input from patients, nurses, diabetes educators, internists, nutritionists, pharmacists, and health literacy experts. It is available in both English and Spanish versions and is currently being used in clinical and research settings in multiple states.

Diabetes Self-Management materials are available in English from the American College of Physicians.

Effective Health Care Program: Consumer Products from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

The Effective Health Care (EHC) Program improves the quality of health care by providing the best available evidence on the outcomes, benefits and harms, and appropriateness of drugs, devices, and health care services and by helping health care professionals, patients, policymakers, and health care systems make informed health care decisions.  The EHC Program achieves this goal by partnering with research centers, academic institutions, health professional societies, consumer organizations, and other stakeholders to conduct research, evidence synthesis, evidence translation, dissemination, and implementation of research findings.

Consumer summaries in English and Spanish are available from the AHRQ Effective Healthcare Program.

Heart Failure Self-Management – “Caring for Your Heart: Living Well with Heart Failure”

Cover of Heart Failure Self-Management Researchers at UNC have studied the design and implementation of heart failure self-management support and performed clinical trials demonstrating that organized self-management support can improve self-care behaviors and prevent hospitalizations.

The revised materials are available in two versions, which were tested in a multi-center clinical trial. The versions are identical except for one aspect. Version 1 does not teach patients how to self-adjust their diuretic dose based on daily weights. Rather, it instructs patients to call their clinician if the weight changes by a certain amount. Version 2 teaches patients to adjust their diuretic dose based on daily weights. Version 2 advises the patient to notify the clinician for sustained or substantial weight changes. Version 2 also comes with a water pill guide that the patient can keep out to remind them of the correct dosing, as well as a weight chart for patients to keep track of their daily weights.

Materials for:

Revised Heart Failure Self-Management Guide in English and Spanish.

Guidelines for how Caring for Your Heart patient educational materials were used in clinical trials.

How Do Vaccines Work? A Lifeology “flashcard” Illustrated Primer


A new collaboration between virology and public health experts Shauna Bennett and Jessica Malaty Rivera (The COVID Tracking Project), and UK artist Matthew Griffiths has resulted in a Lifeology “flashcard” illustrated primer on How Vaccines Work. The primer course is open access (CC-BY-SA) and available in both English and Spanish.



Feel free to use and share. There are other COVID-related illustrated “flashcard” courses available in English and Spanish here: Easy-to-Read Materials

MedlinePlus is a consumer health information website, produced by the National Library of Medicine, one of the National Institutes of Health. Articles are written for the public, not health professionals. But, not all materials on MedlinePlus are at the same reading level. MedlinePlus does not decide the literacy level of materials, the people who write the materials decide if they are easy to read. In general, these summaries aim for a 5th to 8th grade reading level. This site is great to recommend for your patients and their families in general, but particularly for materials that are designated easy to read.

An alphabetical listing of all designated “easy-to-read” materials are available on the Easy-to-Read page or can be found on various health topic pages by looking for the “Easy-to-Read” label.

Your Guide to Diabetes: Type I and Type II

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse is a service of the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) that answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes. The guide provides basic information on diabetes and helpful tips for managing and monitoring diabetes.

Available in English from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

National Center for Farmworker Health: Patient Education Resources

The National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) is a private non-profit corporation, established in 1975, located in Buda, Texas. NCFH provides information services, technical assistance, and training to more than 500 private and federally funded migrant health centers as well as other organizations and individuals serving the farmworker population. The organization’s resources include bilingual patient education materials handouts and a few videos.

These resources are available at the NCFH Patient Education Resources page.

Last modified: 11/03/21