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Health Literacy

Health literacy is defined 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."1 The skills required encompass reading, listening, analytics, numeracy, and decision-making, plus the ability to navigate a complex and changing healthcare delivery system. Healthcare providers, patients, and other stakeholders have  important roles in health literacy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):2


Anyone who provides health information and services to others, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, or public health worker, also needs health literacy skills to

  • Help people find information and services
  • Communicate about health and healthcare
  • Process what people are explicitly and implicitly asking for
  • Understand how to provide useful information and services
  • Decide which information and services work best for different situations and people so they can act


Given the increasing complexity of cancer diagnosis, treatment, follow-up with survivorship care plans, health literacy is integral to delivery of patient-centered care.

1. Nielsen-Bohlman L, Panzer AM, Kindig DA (eds). Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Institute of Medicine Committee on Health Literacy. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Health Literacy? 

Featured Program

Let's Be Clear: Communicating to Improve the Cancer Patient Experience

With this education project ACCC seeks to help cancer programs across the country to improve survivorship programming through the application of the health literacy principles.
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