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Physical Therapist Assistant Resources : Health Literacy

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is the ability to understand information about health. Barriers to health literacy could be a lack of knowledge, false knowledge, inability to read, inability to read English or even an inability to relate to a doctor. 

Archie Willard was illiterate until the age of 54, when he began learning to read as an adult. He is now an advocate for non-reading patients and speaks to Helen Osborne of Health Literacy Out Loud. Listen to his podcast (click on the photo for a link) to gain an understanding of non-reading patients. If you want to know more about Health Literacy Out Loud and their podcasts, look for their page on ITunes.

Some patients are simply intimidated by a medical office or hospital. They may be afraid of doctors and nurses and feel too anxious to ask questions. Massachusetts Health Quality Partners has prepared several brochures that let patients know what sort of questions they can and should ask. Click on the picture below to go to the page of brochures.

Brochure Caring for Children

Inability to read English:

Some patients simply don't speak English. They may rely on a family member to translate or you may use a professional translator in your office. One place to find translations of medical information is Health Information Translations. This website is a collaborative project by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Mount Carmel Health System, Ohio Health, and the Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is an important part of encouraging patients to take charge of their health and become more health literate. 

National Center for Cultural Competence

Check out the National Center for Cultural Competence resources to assess your own cultural competence and to find resources for papers. 

On line Curricula for Professionals

Self Assessment




This resource from the University of Washington is a good place to find information about other cultures from a medical perspective.

Health Literacy Training for Professionals

The CDC has prepared 5 units of Health Literacy Training which is available for Health Professionals. The first unit is certified for Continuing Education credits. 

1. Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals

2. Writing for the Public

3. Using Numbers and Explaining Risk

4. Creating Easier to Understand Charts, Lists and Graphs

5. Speaking with the Public

Reading List

This reading list of resources available at ICC will help you prepare a paper or presentation on cultural competency or health literacy.

AHRQ Patient Waiting Room Video

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has developed this video for patient waiting rooms to encourage patients to actively seek information during doctor visits. This video can help you, as a nurse or health care advocate think about how you approach patient education.