Boosting Health Literacy: Why 90% of Adults Need Clarity on Health Choices

Imagine every visit to the doctor's office or every time you researched a symptom online felt like being thrust into a vast medical library, buried under piles of unintelligible books, dense research papers, and overly technical health guides. Each word you read is slightly familiar, yet its meaning eludes you, turning what should be straightforward into a complex puzzle. This scenario is a stark reality for nearly nine out of ten adults in the United States today as they confront the challenges of health literacy.

Marginalized communities stand at the forefront of this struggle, shouldering the heaviest burden. The ripple effects of this widespread challenge are profound: from individuals grappling with poor health outcomes to a healthcare system strained under the weight of preventable complications and soaring costs. The path to wellness, dotted with obstacles, becomes a maze for those unable to decode the language of health.

Low health literacy is not merely a personal inconvenience; it's a public health crisis. It's about more than reading prescription labels or following a doctor's advice; it's about making empowered decisions that shape well-being and longevity. As we move further into 2024, the call to action becomes louder: to transform this library of confusion into a garden of understanding, where every individual has the key to unlock their health potential.

Strategies for Improving Health Literacy

A report by United Health Group indicates that improving health literacy could save almost a million hospital visits and more than $25 billion per year. Enhancing health literacy as a society involves a collaborative effort between medical providers, individuals, businesses, and government agencies. 

On the one hand, medical practitioners can help patients understand their health by using straightforward language and a variety of communication channels. Government agencies such as the CDC work to make health information publicly available.

At the same time, businesses can act to promote health literacy by providing employee wellness programs. Such initiatives have become an essential part of many companies, and serve to improve health, boost productivity, and increase employee satisfaction. 

Individuals also have a responsibility to educate themselves about health and employ strategies to improve their overall well-being. By approaching our health with a consistent, proactive mindset, rather than simply reacting to problems when they arise, we can live longer, healthier lives.

Practical Tips for Making Informed Health Decisions

Empowering yourself with the knowledge to keep yourself healthy is crucial in today’s complex healthcare environment. As physician Manuela Hamaoui explains, “It’s imperative to be your own advocate.” Improving your health literacy is not just about understanding medical terms; it's about enhancing your ability to navigate the healthcare system, ask the right questions, and make informed choices. Here are practical tips to elevate your health literacy:

1. Ask Questions and Seek Clarifications

Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider questions or for simpler explanations if something isn’t clear. It’s important to understand the information given to you so that you can make informed decisions about your health and treatments​​.

2. Utilize Reliable Health Information Sources

Refer to reputable sources for health information. Websites like the CDC and WHO, along with recognized health institutions, provide accurate and trustworthy health information. Be cautious of unverified online sources, as misinformation can lead to harmful decisions​​.

3. Understand Your Health Insurance Plan

Understanding your health insurance coverage is critical to navigating the healthcare system. Knowing what services are covered, how to obtain referrals, and the costs involved can reduce stress and ensure you receive the care you need without unexpected expenses​​.

4. Learn the Basics of Health Maintenance

Educate yourself on basic health maintenance, including nutrition, exercise, and preventive measures like vaccinations and regular screenings. This foundational knowledge can help you maintain your health and prevent diseases​​.

5. Develop Communication Skills

Effective communication with healthcare providers is essential. Prepare for appointments by writing down your symptoms, the questions you want to ask, and any medications you’re taking. This will help your healthcare provider give you the best care possible​​.

6. Advocate for Your Health

Be an active participant in your healthcare. This means not only asking questions but also discussing treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine what’s best for you. Remember, you have the right to second opinions and to be involved in decisions about your healthcare​​.

7. Use Tools and Resources

Many organizations offer tools and resources to help improve your health literacy. These can include pamphlets, websites, and workshops designed to teach health literacy skills and provide information on various health topics​​.

By adopting these strategies, you can significantly improve your health literacy, enabling you to make better-informed decisions about your health and healthcare. Remember, taking an active role in your health is the first step toward achieving better health outcomes.


The journey towards improved health literacy is a collective endeavor, requiring the active participation of healthcare providers, policymakers, community leaders, and individuals alike. By fostering a culture of clear communication, inclusivity, and shared understanding, we can bridge the gap in health literacy, empowering individuals to make informed health decisions and achieving health equity for all.


United Health Group

Summit Health

OECD Ilibrary


Dr. Livingston enjoys taking care of patients from the mild to the wild. He is the doctor for you, if you have been to other places and told there was nothing that could be done for your or told “It’s all in your head”. He accepts all types of cases including workers compensation, auto accident and personal injury cases. He believes chiropractic can help everyone add life to their years and get them back to doing what they love.

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