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Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations

The Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations were created by the National Academies Roundtable on Health Literacy. The document that outlines these attributes has been used as a guide for many organizations to plan and implement their health literacy efforts. This approach acknowledges that health literacy is an essential component of healthcare organizations and that organizations with these attributes make it easier for people to navigate, comprehend, and use health information and services. The ten attributes of a health literate organization include:

  1. Leading health literate missions and operations
  2. Integrating health literacy into planning, evaluation measures, and quality improvement
  3. Preparing the workforce to be health literate
  4. Designing, implementing, and evaluating health information and services with a diverse population in mind
  5. Acknowledging the range of different health literacy levels and needs and avoiding stigmatization
  6. Using health literate strategies in communication
  7. Providing easy access to health information
  8. Designing print, audiovisual, and social media content that is easy to understand
  9. Focusing on health literacy in high-risk situations such as during illness and transitions in care
  10. Providing clear communication about health insurance coverage and charges for services

Example of Programs Using the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations

  • The University of Tennessee Medical Center has developed a health literacy initiative through its partnership with the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine. The institution has created strategic goals harnessing the ten attributes of health literate care organizations to make impactful change in increasing organizational health literacy.

Implementation Considerations

There are several implementation strategies that healthcare organizations can use to help them adopt, align, and sustain these attributes to improve organizational health literacy. These strategies are outlined in the National Academies Roundtable on Health Literacy paper. These strategies do not all need to be implemented at the same time or in a certain manner. Different organizations will choose to use these approaches in a way that best suits the goals and mission of their work and organization. These attributes are most applicable to healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals who are directly providing patient care in some capacity.

Resources to Learn More

The Health Literate Health Care Organization 10 Item Questionnaire (HLHO-10): Development and Validation
Describes the method used for evaluating an instrument that measures the effectiveness of healthcare organizations in their efforts to assess patient level of health literacy and to implement strategies to help lessen health literacy issues.
Author(s): Kowalski, C., Lee, S.D., Schmidt, A., et al.
Citation: BMC Health Services Research, 15, 47
Date: 2015