Research & Reading List
There is a growing body of research and practice around the field of health literacy. Limited health literacy is associated with worse health outcomes, so it is important that health professionals be aware of best practices and to utilize strategies and resources to help improve health literacy skills for themselves and for their patients. This page is designed to help you continue your learning about health literacy and includes information about:
- Assessing the health literacy of patients
- Research tools and training materials
- Health literacy videos and presentations
- Scholarly articles about health literacy
Assessing the Health Literacy of Patients
Limited health literacy is common but can be hard to recognize. Experts recommend using health literacy universal precautions by always presenting health information to patients and their families in a clear and easy manner. The precautions also stress the importance of providing a shame-free environment. These precautions aim to:
- Simplify communication and confirm comprehension to minimize miscommunication
- Make the office environment and health care system easier to navigate
- Support patients’ efforts to improve their health
Some health literacy instruments are best suited for research. Others are preferred in a clinical setting, as they can be administered quickly. The resources and tools below can help you identify which assessment tools will meet your needs.
Health Literacy Tool Shed
The Health Literacy Tool Shed by Boston University is an online database of health literacy measures. These measures, including their psychometric properties, are based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature. You can find health literacy measurement tools to meet your needs.
Newest Vital Sign
NVS is a valid and reliable screening tool available in English and Spanish that identifies patients at risk for low health literacy. It is easy and quick to administer, requiring just three minutes.
Single Item Literacy Screener
SILS is a simple instrument designed to identify patients with limited reading ability who need help reading health-related materials. The SILS performs moderately well at ruling out limited reading ability in adults and allows providers to target additional assessment of health literacy skills to those most in need. To obtain a copy, contact the corresponding author.
Rapid Assessment of Adult Literacy in Medicine
REALM is a screening tool designed to measure adults’ ability to read common medical words or lay terms that correspond to anatomy or illnesses. As a word recognition test, the REALM does not assess comprehension. However, it is highly correlated with other tests of comprehension. It takes approximately 3 minutes to administer and score. To obtain a copy: Contact Dr. Terry C. Davis at email@example.com
Rapid Assessment of Adult Literacy in Medicine-Revised
REALM-R is a shortened version of the REALM, which is used to help identify literacy levels of adult patients. It consists of 8 items, and is used to measure how well individuals can read words they will encounter in a medical setting. To obtain a copy: Contact Dr. Terry C. Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Short Assessment of Health Literacy for Spanish-speaking Adults:
SAHLSA consists of a word-recognition section, designed after the REALM, as well as a comprehension test that employs multiple choice questions. It was designed to assess the health literacy for adults whose native language is Spanish. To obtain a copy: Contact Dr. Shoou-Yih D. Lee at email@example.com
Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults:
TOFHLA consists of reading comprehension and numeracy sections. The former is composed of 50 questions, the latter of 17 items. The entire test usually takes up to 22 minutes to administer. The reading passages and numeracy question are taken from common medical scenarios. The s-TOFHLA is a truncated version that only uses questions from the reading comprehension subsection of the full test. There are 36 items that are administered in 7 minutes. The scoring categorizes respondents into inadequate, marginal or adequate levels of health literacy.Obtain a copy of the TOFHLA (Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults) from the Health Literacy Tool Shed.
Health Literacy Research – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Information and tools for planning health literacy research, identifying opportunities and barriers to improving health literacy in your organization, finding funding opportunities and learning about current research on health literacy topics.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Universal Symbols in Health Care Workbook
Using symbols for health care signage can successfully meet the wayfinding needs of patients that speak hundreds of different languages. This workbook is designed for health care facilities and graphic designers interested in learning about and using newly developed health care symbols for wayfinding programs.
Health Literacy Videos
Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion
Location: Freely Available
Video presentation of the Institute of Medicine report with all findings and recommendations — Video clips of patients discussing their health literacy experiences — Video of Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, discussing the implications of health literacy for health care in the United States
Members of the Health Literacy team at HSL have compiled the following collection of presentations on health literacy. We welcome you to use any of the presentation slides. Please credit the noted study authors and presentation creators as appropriate.
Health Literacy out Loud Podcast Interviews
Helen Osborne, M.Ed., is a health literacy expert and the founder of Health Literacy Month. In keeping with today’s trends and technology, Helen produces and hosts the podcast series Health Literacy Out Loud – podcast interviews with those in-the-know about health literacy. You will hear why health literacy matters and learn practical ways to help.
Health Literacy: Importance in Partners
Outlines the basics and importance of health literacy, including strategies on how to overcome communication barriers. It also highlights the Teach-Back method and Plain Language techniques, and provides examples.
Presentations and Training Materials
The Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership has developed or located a variety of training and presentations materials to help educate individuals and health care professionals about the importance of health literacy. These materials are free and available for your use.
Health Literacy: Hidden Barriers and Practical Strategies
Includes 30 slides that can be delivered in 30-45 minutes to a group or as a self-study program. It comes with speaker’s notes. The content promotes the understanding of what health literacy is and how it affects patients. It also covers select practical strategies that can help practices do a better job caring for people with low health literacy.
Health Literacy 101 – An Introduction
An introduction to the justifications, needs, history and impact health literacy plays within the complex facets of healthcare. This one hour video is from the 17th Annual Health Literacy Conference titled Strengthening Communities to Improve Health Equity and Health Literacy.
The following journal articles on health literacy are listed in chronological order. They are automatically updated from PubMed.