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Health Literacy: Information is the Best Medicine

What is Health Literacy?

Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

Key Health Literacy Research Findings

  • We must not blame the individual for not understanding information that has not been made clear.
  • Everyone, no matter how educated, is at risk for misunderstanding health information if the topic is emotionally charged or complex.
  • In almost all cases, physicians and other health professionals try to, and believe they are, communicating accurate information.
  • In some cases, patients may believe they have understood directions but may be embarrassed to ask questions to confirm their understanding.
  • Health care organizations and their systems and procedures have a significant role to play in ensuring understanding in the health care setting.
  • It is increasingly difficult for people to separate evidence-based information, especially online, from misleading ads and gimmicks.
  • The communication of “risk” in an effective and fair way continues to be a challenge for both the provider and the patient.
  • There are additional challenges in understanding how to select insurance plans and benefits, especially for those who have not previously been insured.

(National Institutes of Health, 2021)

Local Resources

A small selection of community health resources can be found below. For even more, visit Metro State's list of basic needs, services, and support for students.

location pin iconComunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES)

Minnesota’s largest Latino-led nonprofit organization. Offers a variety of health and wellness services including emotional support, alcohol and substance abuse assessments and treatments, access to healthy food, health education and prevention, and health insurance enrollment.

location pin iconFace to Face

Provides comprehensive medical care, mental healthcare, housing support, case management, employment training and support, and other social services to low-income and insecurely housed youth ages 11 to 24.

location pin iconFamily Tree Clinic

Provides reproductive and sexual health services as well as educational services including complete, accurate, factual, and developmentally appropriate information on human sexuality topics ranging from puberty to abstinence to contraception and pleasure.

location pin iconNative American Community Clinic (NACC)

NACC's mission is to promote health & wellness of mind, body and spirit in Native American families. They offer a full range of healthcare services that include medical, behavioral health, dental, and substance abuse programs.

location pin iconRECLAIM

One of the only organizations in Minnesota that offers financially accessible, specialized mental health care to queer and trans youth and their families. 

location pin iconSteve Rummler HOPE Network

A MN-based nonprofit working to address the impacts of the opioid crisis through overdose prevention, advocacy, and education. Provides naloxone (the opioid reversal medication), training and education, and fentanyl test strips to the public at no cost.

Helpful Websites

Laptop IconAgency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Be More Engaged in Your Healthcare

Tips for patients to use before, during, and after their medical appointments to make sure they get the best possible care. Includes resources to help patients prepare for medical appointments, ask questions, and talk with members of their health care team.

Laptop IconCenters for Disease Control (CDC)

The nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health. Includes the Health Topics A-Z Index to quickly find information using both common and scientific terms.

Laptop IconCleveland Clinic: Health Library

Thousands of health articles and videos to help you take care of yourself and your family as well as free downloadable treatment guides.

Laptop IconCochrane

Plain Language Summaries (PLS) of systematic reviews from Cochrane Reviews designed for patients and health care consumers. PLSs help people to understand and interpret research findings.

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Mayo Clinic

The largest integrated, not-for-profit medical group practice in the world. Search the health library for easy to understand information on diseases and conditions, symptoms, tests and procedures, drugs and supplements, and more.

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Consumer health information from the National Library of Medicine. Includes health information for patients in many languages, including Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. 

Laptop IconMinnesota Department of Health (MDH)

The state's lead public health agency, responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of all Minnesotans. MDH provides information about health behaviors and chronic disease prevention as well as effective approaches to improving health.

Laptop IconNational Institutes of Health (NIH)

A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH provides health information including health care providers and facilities, insurance, health info lines, wellness toolkits, and tips on talking to your doctor.

Laptop IconNemours KidsHealth

Dependable information on children's health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years including doctor-reviewed advice on hundreds of physical, emotional, and behavioral topics.

Laptop IconUpToDate: Patient Education

Offers short overviews that answer the four or five most important questions a person might have about a medical problem as well as longer, more detailed reviews for readers who are comfortable with some medical terminology.

Laptop IconWebMD

Credible information about health subjects that is regularly reviewed and updated by a network of doctors and health experts.

Print and eBooks @ Metro State

Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion
Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics
Get Inside Your Doctor's Head: 10 Commonsense Rules for Making Better Decisions about Medical Care
The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting Through the Hype about Your Health
The Informed Patient: A Complete Guide to a Hospital Stay
Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You
The Medical Library Association Essential Guide to Becoming an Expert Searcher
When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests
Your Patient Safety Survival Guide: How to Protect Yourself and Others from Medical Errors
Understanding Healthcare Information
How Doctors Think
Prepare to Defend Yourself ...How to Navigate the Healthcare System and Escape with Your Life
Talking to Your Doctor: A Patient's Guide to Communication in the Exam Room and Beyond
Getting Risk Right: Understanding the Science of Elusive Health Risks
Concise Medical Dictionary
Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now: Gaining the Upper Hand in Your Medical Care

Because we all deserve access to quality health resources