National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy

This National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multisector effort to improve health literacy.

Cynthia Baur, Ph.D.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy seeks to engage organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, individuals, and families in a linked, multisector effort to improve health literacy. The plan is based on the principles that (1) everyone has the right to health information that helps them make informed decisions and (2) health services should be delivered in ways that are understandable and beneficial to health, longevity, and quality of life. The vision informing this plan is of a society that:

  • Provides everyone with access to accurate and actionable health information
  • Delivers person-centered health information and services
  • Supports lifelong learning and skills to promote good health

This report contains seven goals that will improve health literacy and suggests strategies for achieving them:

  1. Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable
  2. Promote changes in the health care system that improve health information, communication, informed decisionmaking, and access to health services
  3. Incorporate accurate, standards-based, and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in child care and education through the university level
  4. Support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community
  5. Build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies
  6. Increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy
  7. Increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions

Many of the strategies highlight actions that particular organizations or professions can take to further these goals, including K-12 and Adult Basic Education programs. It will take everyone working together in a linked and coordinated manner to improve access to accurate and actionable health information and usable health services. By focusing on health literacy issues and working together, we can improve the accessibility, quality, and safety of health care; reduce costs; and improve the health and quality of life of millions of people in the United States.

What the experts say

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy is an incredibly valuable resource to the field of adult education, and beyond! The report clearly documents the field’s background and relevance to health and education issues. In addition the document very nicely lays out the myriad of relevant issues related to implementing such a plan, providing excellent real-life examples at each stage. Stakeholders are also featured prominently in the plan – both in explaining how the plan is relevant to different fields and players as well as how the stakeholders were considered in the development of the plan.

In the reference list are many “famous” names of those who have contributed to this body of knowledge on health literacy prior to the 2010 publication of this document. The cited folks are from adult learning and from health care experts in equal share.

The National Action Plan is a fabulous resource to those who started the field as well as to those who are new to the field (and those who are in-between). The Plan provides excellent background as well as concrete plans for moving forward. This is a useful document for learning, implementing plans, partnering between health and literacy programs and for bringing what we know about health literacy to the forefront of local and national dialogue. Because it is so well researched and documented, and because it shows health literacy as an important component in the national agenda, the Plan can be particularly useful to show to administrators, funders, etc. in order to confirm the value of allocating resources to implement health literacy strategies.

Resource Notice

This site includes links to information created by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this non-ED information. The inclusion of these links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse views expressed, or products or services offered, on these non-ED sites.

Please note that privacy policies on non-ED sites may differ from ED’s privacy policy. When you visit, no personal information is collected unless you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party. We recommend that you read the privacy policy of non-ED websites that you visit. We invite you to read our privacy policy.