Health Literacy

The Health Literacy Office improves the ways health information is communicated, whether patients are reading or hearing it. Health care organizations have a responsibility to ensure patients can find and understand health information so they can get the health care they need.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes health literacy is important for health organizations:

  • Nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information when it is unfamiliar, complex or jargon filled. Health literacy can be improved if we practice clear communication strategies and techniques.
  • Clear communication means using familiar concepts, words, numbers and images presented in ways that make sense to the people who need the information.

Not all health care organizations have staff dedicated to Health Literacy. At UNMH we have a health literacy office for these reasons as well:

  • Understanding new complex information can be harder if you are feeling sick, anxious, or worried.
  • Culture, language and education matter.
  • The health care system is complicated. It’s our responsibility to remove barriers.

Reading, Listening & Understanding

Our team helps staff create clear, reader-friendly written materials—forms, handouts and instructions. We want readers to be able to skim, scan and get the information they need quickly. We make sure documents are translated into Spanish and Vietnamese for our patients. Look for the health literacy seal of approval on your documents.

See an example of a revised handout [PDF].

We train staff to speak clearly and check for understanding. We use teach back as a way to increase understanding of what patients and their families need to know about their care. Your health care provider will encourage you to put healthcare information in your own words. They will listen and help clear up any confusions.

We're Here to Help

If you have been given a document that is hard to understand, please send us the document. Email us at healthliteracy@salud.unm.edu or contact our team. Please fill out the this pdf and send it to us with the document.

Kathryn Anderson, MA
Senior Health Literacy Specialist
kmanderson@salud.unm.edu
505-272-2253

Rebecca Gehring, MPH
Health Literacy Educator
Rgehring@salud.unm.edu
505-272-5101

How Can We Help?

Contact the Health Literacy team today.