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Health Literacy Resources

Use this guide to locate Web resources related to health literacy, and health communications


Literacy Information and Communication System: A national dissemination and professional development system, providing information on literacy research, practice and resources.
National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL): A nationally representative and continuing assessment of English language literary skills of American Adults.
National Center for Family Literacy: Help families make educational and economic progress by improving family literacy programs.
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL)
: Dedicated to improving practice in educational programs that serve adults with limited literacy and English language skills and those without a high school diploma.

ProLiteracy: Champion literacy to improve the lives of adults and their families, communities and societies.

What is Plain Language?

Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Written material is in plain language if your audience can:  

1. Find what they need; 2. Understand what they find; and 3. Use what they find to meet their needs. 

 - Plain

Creating Plain Language Resources

Assessing and Developing Health Materials: Offers tips to consider when creating educational materials and provides links to helpful tools.

Clear & Simple: Guidelines from the National Cancer Institute for developing effective print materials for low-literate readers.
Health Literacy Online: A guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health Web sites.

How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials: Provides information about creating easy-to-read materials.

Plain Language: Describes why plain language is a promising strategy for clearly communicating health information and improving health literacy.

Plain Contains guidelines for creating plain language materials, as well as an overview of the plain language movement and tools for trainers.

Plain Language & Health Literacy Websites: From The Ohio State University AHEC Clear Health Communication Program.

PRISM (Program for Readability In Science & Medicine) Readability Toolkit: A handbook for researchers illustrating how to use plain language in participant materials.

SMOG (Simple Measure of Goobledygook): This online tool calculates the grade level of written materials.

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective: Provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools to help make written material easier for people to read, understand, and use. One-stop source for Web designers to learn how to make Websites more usable, useful, and accessible. 

Words Count: Contains several tools to measure readability, including CLEAR, SMOG and syllable counter.

Thank You

Thank you to Adrianne Leonardelli and the Duke University Medical Center Library. This Resource Guide was based on information from the Duke University Medical Center Guide on Health Literacy.

CDC Plain Language Resource

Simply Put Cover

CDC Simply Put: A Guide for creating easy-to-understand materials.

Glossaries & Thesauri

Plain Language Glossaries: Glossaries in plain language for arthritis, asthma and lupus.  

Plain Language Medical Dictionary: A project of the University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library as part of the Michigan Health Literacy Awareness project. To use, click on the drop down menu to browse the list of high-level medical terms. Once a word or phrase is selected, the plain language translation will appear in the box.  

Plain Language Principles and Thesaurus: Provides plain language principles and a thesaurus for creating HIPAA privacy notices that are more readable.