Tackling eHealth Literacy

Lourdes M. Martinez, PhD
Health Communications Specialist
Office of the Associate Director for Communication
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March 5, 2018

As I waited in the exam room on a recent visit to my doctor’s office, I noticed there was a large wall display with an interactive screen. It resembled a smartphone, and I could use the touchscreen to scroll and learn about various conditions, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and colon health. Each menu included signs and symptoms of illness, and information on diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. The designs were bright, jargon was kept to a minimum and defined when used, and navigating was simple for routine smartphone users. The display also included short videos supporting the on-screen text.

“Great!” I thought, “But what about patients who don’t have strong English skills or those who don’t feel confident engaging with the display? How do they get the information if they don’t directly ask for it?”

As a health communication specialist in CDC’s health literacy program, my job requires me to think about answers to those questions. Findings from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy suggest limited health literacy is a problem for many people and an issue that public health and health care professionals can take action to improve.

Read more to learn about supporting eHealth literacy for your patients.