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It's health literacy month -- what are you up to?

It’s Health Literacy month!

How do you engage people and help them understand information?

What are your guiding principles?

Want to share examples that turn these principles into concrete realities…?

Here’s a bit about what we do…

The Cancer Publications Branch (CPB) at NCI works to help people:

  • Learn the most important information
  • Understand steps and actions they need to take
  • Interact with the medical team, and ask questions to learn more

Here are some “insider tips” we use to help readers:

  • Use active voice and conversational tone
  • Use “you” – write in the 2nd person, to the person with cancer
  • Use simple words and define medical words
  • Use margins, white space, headings and short line lengths
  • Use medical illustrations and tables
  • Use bulleted lists and headings
  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short

Here are some award-winning pubs that turn these literacy research principles into reality!

Chemotherapy Side Effects Fact Sheets

Facing Forward: Making a Difference in Cancer

Pain Control

Radiation Therapy and You

Treatment Choices for Men with Early-Stage Prostate Cancer

Understanding Breast Changes

What You Need To Know About Liver Cancer

Check out these NIH and NCI resourcesto learn more about health literacy:

Health Literacy (from Medline Plus)

Pink Book - Making Health Communication Programs Work

Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice

Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers

Quick Guide to Health Literacy

Carol - thanks for sharing these great tips and resources.  I also wanted to share the workshop summary that was just released by IOM's Roundtable on Health Literacy.  The summary, titled Promoting Health Literacy to Encourage Prevention and Wellness, describes the inclusion of health literacy into public health prevention programs at the national, state and local levels, reviews how insurance companies factor health literacy into their prevention programs, and discusses industry contributions to providing health literate primary and secondary prevention.  A complimentary copy of the full report can be downloaded here

Thank you both for sharing this information about health literacy!  Do either of you have any recommendations for an interesting, free online health literacy training?  Many of the ones I've found are very wordy and bland and would not be engaging enough to train my research assistants.  Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated!

We posed your question to Carol and she in turn connected with Cindy Brach (AHRQ), Cynthia Baur (CDC) and Brittany Moya Del Pino (NCI) and collected their thoughts also.  Below is their collective wisdom

The two that seemed to answer your question best are:

Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals  - A free online course (

Health Literacy Curricula – A Collectionfromthe National Institute for Literacy Health and Literacy ( )

Other resources from our federal partners:

AHRQ: Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit:

HRSA has training:

So does

CDC also does…



For research assistants, Cindy Brach recommends looking  at the AHRQ Informed Consent and Authorization Toolkit for Minimal Risk Research: It gives guidance on how to conduct and confirm understanding during the consent process, as well as providing sample of plain language consent forms in English and Spanish.

And if you were interested in If you want to expand to cultural competence, they’d recommend OMH’s:


Great question!

Certainly this is not an exhaustive list.  Does anyone else have any suggestions for health literacy trainings?

Followers of this thread may be particularly interested in a recent podcast from the Agency for Health Care Research (AHCR)’s Health Literacy Out Loud series.

Health Literacy Out Loud #77: Dr Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for HHS, Talks About Boosting Health Literacy to Move Beyond the Cycle of Costly Crisis Care

Dr. Howard K. Koh serves as the 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Koh is dedicated to the mission of creating better public health systems for prevention and care so that all people can reach their highest attainable standard of health. Health literacy is key to accomplishing this goal.

In this podcast, Dr. Koh talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How health literacy is a dynamic systems issue and public health challenge
  • Why health literacy is at a “tipping point,” moving from the margins to mainstream.
  • New Federal policies, initiatives, and tools that boost health literacy.

I just returned from the 8th Biennial Conference on Cancer, Culuture & Literacy sponsored by the Moffitt Cancer Center.  The conference was excellent and focused on advancing communications.  They have started to post some of the presentations from the conference at:

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