Health Literacy: What Does It Mean?

People need health literacy skills to do the following: find information and services; communicate their needs and preferences and respond to information and services; process and understand the usefulness to them of information and services; and then decide which information and service will best fit their needs so they can take action.3  Persons with limited health literacy skills have higher utilization of treatment services including hospitalization and emergency services and lower utilization of preventive services. They incur medical expenses that are up to four times greater than patients with adequate health literacy skills. The estimated added annual cost to the health care system due to low health literacy is $106-$238 billion.

How do I request my health records?

  1. The first step is to check your health care provider’s online patient “portal.” A patient portal is a secure website, where patients can often do things like make appointments, contact their doctor, and look at lab results.
  2. If the health information you need is not available through the patient portal, you may be able to contact your provider directly through the portal to ask for it. You may even be able to request your complete health record through the patient portal.
  3. If your provider does not have an online patient portal, check their website for information, or phone/visit their office.

Source:  The Office of the Coordinator for Health Information Technology

How to Talk to Your Doctor?

  • Get ready before your appointment by making a list of any concerns and questions you have. Bring this list to your appointment, so you won’t forget anything.
  • Do you have a new symptom? Have you noticed side effects from your medicines? Do you want to know the meaning of a certain word?
  • Don’t wait for the doctor to bring up a certain topic, because he or she may not know what’s important to you.
  • Ask any questions you have.

Learn more:  NIH News in Health

Evaluating Internet Health Information

The U.S. National Academy of Medicine offers an online tutorial on Evaluating Internet Health Information. This tutorial teaches you how to evaluate the health information you find on the Internet.

Link to tutorial:  U.S. National Academy of Medicine


1 Ohio Health Literacy Partners. [Internet]. About health literacy. Retrieved on 9/8/19 from:

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. National action plan to improve health literacy. Washington (DC): Author; 2010.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. What is Health Literacy? Retrieved on 9/8/19 from:

4 Rudd RE. Health literacy skills of U.S. adults. Am J Health Behav. 2007;31 (Suppl 1):S8–18.

5 Healthy People 2020. [Internet]. Health Literacy. Retrieved on 9/8/19 from: