Health Literacy Resources for Librarians

Current and Pertinent Issues

The Zika Virus

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) in response to an increase in requests for information on the Zika Virus has put together resources that you can share with members of your community.

MedlinePlus now includes a health topic page on Zika Virus in English and Spanish.

The Specialized Information Services group of NLM has also created a Zika Virus Health Information Resources web site that includes content syndication.

If you need Zika Virus information in languages other than English and Spanish you may visit HealthReach from NLM and locate Zika Virus material in different languages.

Web Resources

Health Literacy

Health Literacy is defined in the Institute of Medicine report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Health Literacy:  Accurate, Accessible and Actionable Health Information for All

This site provides information and tools to improve health literacy and public health. These resources are for all organizations that interact and communicate with people about health.

National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy

This National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multi-sector effort to improve health literacy. The plan is based on the principles that (1) everyone has the right to health information that helps them make informed decisions and (2) health services should be delivered in ways that are understandable and beneficial to health, longevity, and quality of life.

Making Health Communication Programs Work

Part of the “Clear Communication” program of the National Institutes of Health, “Making Health Communication Programs Work,” [The “Pink Book”] comprehensively addresses clear communication and reflects the best practices of all NIH Institutes and Centers as a shared resource. This book describes a practical approach for planning and implementing health communication efforts; it offers guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials

Medical concepts and language are very complex. People need easily understandable health information regardless of age, background or reading level. Here are guidelines to help you create easy-to-read health materials.

Health Literacy Online Guide

This guide is written for Web designers, Web content specialists, and other public health communication professionals. We offer an overview of how to:
  • Deliver online health information that is actionable and engaging.
  • Create a health Web site that’s easy to use, particularly for people with limited literacy skills and limited experience using the Web.
  • Evaluate and improve your health Web site with user-centered design.

Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice

CDC’s Gateway to Communication and Social Marketing Practice provides resources to help build your health communication or social marketing campaigns and programs. Whether you are looking for tips for analyzing and segmenting an audience, choosing appropriate channels and tools, or evaluating the success of your messages or campaigns, it’s all here in one place!

Podcasts, Blogs, and Newsletters

Health Literacy Out Loud

Health Literacy Out Loud (HLOL) podcasts are a lot like radio shows. You can listen in as Helen Osborne interviews those in-the-know about health literacy. You will hear why health literacy matters and learn practical ways to help.

Developing Materials to Match the Health Literacy Skills of Older Adults

In this podcast, Dr. Lynda Anderson, Director of CDC’s Healthy Aging Program, discusses the importance of improving health literacy among older adults.

Every week, we’ll have a new post related to health literacy. These posts will range from getting around tricky jargon terms to enhancing text with visuals and musings on plain language, design, usability, typography, and much more. Basically, if it’s related to health literacy, it’s fair game.

“What’s New” E-newsletter

“What’s New” is a free monthly e-newsletter from Health Literacy Consulting. Includes highlights of how-to tips, podcasts, and other health literacy resources.


The Medical Library Association Guide to Health Literacy at the Library

This authoritative MLA guide will help you understand the vital role that medical, hospital, public, and health libraries are uniquely qualified to play in improving health literacy. You will learn innovative ways to use collection development, the reference interview, community health information, and Web resources, as well as strategies for working with special needs populations, including seniors, the disabled, ESL groups, and people of diverse social and cultural backgrounds.

The Medical Library Association Guide to Providing Consumer and Patient Health Information

Comprised of fifteen chapters written by experienced consumer health librarians, The Medical Library Association Guide to Providing Consumer and Patient Health Information is designed for library and information science graduate students as well as librarians new to health and medical librarianship, regardless of library setting. It is comprehensive in scope, covering all aspects of consumer and patient health and medical information from their humble, grassroots beginnings to the ever-evolving applications of new technology and social media.

Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action

Advancing Health Literacy addresses the crisis in health literacy in the United States and around the world. This book thoroughly examines the critical role of literacy in public health and outlines a practical, effective model that bridges the gap between health education, health promotion, and health communication.

Health Literacy from A to Z

This book describes the key principles and strategies of effective health communication presented in a simple, informal manner. The second edition is updated to reflect current health literacy research and practice with new information about timely health literacy topics.

Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion

Examines the body of knowledge that applies to the field of health literacy, and recommends actions to promote a health literate society.

Understanding Health Literacy: Implications for Medicine and Public Health

Organized into four distinct sections, this book offers findings and raises questions to lead to progressive communication and investigation around the issue of health literacy in the context of the individual, the community, and patient-physician interaction.