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What is Health literacy?

"Health literacy" is the ability to understand and act on health information. Unfortunately, nearly half of the U.S. adult population has a low level of health literacy. Legacy Health is working to improve health literacy, so that we can provide even better care and help patients take care of themselves, while helping lower health care costs and reduce emergency room visits.

Educating the health care community

Each year, we host the Oregon and SW Washington Health Literacy Conference, one of the largest health literacy conferences in the nation. This conferences features distinguished speakers and educates everyone from physicians and nurses to health plan professionals and policy-makers. About our next conference:

  • When: Thursday–Friday, April 16–17, 2020
  • Where: Oregon Convention Center, Portland, OR
  • Online Registration: Opens Fall 2019

Learn more About Our Conference

Why does health literacy matter?

People with low health literacy:

  • Are less likely to follow treatment instructions and seek preventive care.
  • Are also twice as likely to be hospitalized.
"Nothing — not age, income, employment status, educational level, and racial or ethnic group — affects health status more than literacy skills."
— National Patient Safety Foundation

Working together toward health literacy

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy as a call to action across the nation. The national action plan is based on two core principles:

  • All people have the right to health information that helps them make informed decisions.
  • Health services should be delivered in ways that are easy to understand and that improve health, longevity, and quality of life.

Learn About the national action plan

OUR health literate culture

In 2010, we established our own health literacy initiative. Health literacy is a part of our culture as nearly every department affects patient care. Our employees practice health literate ways of communicating with patients, such as:

  • Universal precautions: Using health literacy tools with everyone
  • Plain language: Using one- to two-syllable words and short sentences, as in a conversation at home
  • Teach back: Asking patients to explain in their own words or show what they have been advised to do
  • Ask questions: Making sure the patient understands by saying, What questions do you have?