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Health plansWebsite designHealthcare content2 min read Why does health literacy matter?

Know how to simplify your content so it is accessible to all readers.

October 25, 2021The Coffey Team

We’ve all struggled to read those patient visit summaries with medical terms like arachibutyrophobia or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. You have to wonder who created those words. But when medical information is written using best practices for health literacy, you would know that you either have a fear of having peanut butter stuck on your tongue or ice cream gives you brain freeze!

In order for adults to enjoy the best health outcomes and make the best healthcare decisions, they need to understand the health information they read and hear. That’s an important fact to remember as a healthcare marketer. If your content contains complicated medical terms or scientific language, you risk losing your audience because they won’t understand your message.

Why health literacy is important

More than 90 million adults in the U.S. are believed to have low health literacy, according to the National Institutes of Health. A number of factors may influence an individual's health literacy, including education, ethnicity, age, having a disability and living in poverty. And certain characteristics influenced by poverty, including insurance status, may impact health literacy more than other factors. That means people may struggle to:

  • Understand health-related information.
  • Navigate a complex healthcare system.
  • Make decisions about their healthcare.
  • Fill out complex health forms.
  • Share their medical history with providers.
  • Manage any chronic diseases.

As a result, adults with low health literacy tend to be hospitalized more often and to have poorer health overall.

How does your healthcare content hold up?

Although people with low health literacy may have the most difficult time understanding health information, it's important to know that even people with advanced literacy skills can feel overwhelmed with complex medical topics and terms—especially when they or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious disease.

That's why all of your content—whether it's digital, direct mail, a podcast or some other format—should be written in plain language that users can understand the first time they read it or hear it. Health information should be:

  • Make sure that content is presented accurately and in a way readers can understand.
  • Your content should be easy to skim and scan with a large font, subheads, bullets and adequate white space.
  • Be sure to provide actionable information so your readers know what to do with the information you have provided.

3 resources for more health literacy information

Flesch Kincaid readability scores

Health literacy tips: Why reading levels matter

Health literacy online

Coffey can help with health literacy best practices

Our team includes experts in health literacy writing and editing. We love the challenge of taking difficult text and making it easier to read. To learn more about this service and how it can transform your health content and materials, call us at 888.805.9101 or email us.