Health Literacy Tools

At times all of us have trouble understanding health information. When we are worried or under stress, we may not listen or read as well as we normally would. We may be afraid or embarrassed to ask the doctor questions. All of us are responsible to speak up and make sure we understand health information.


Health literacy means how well we can find important information, understand it, and make decisions about our health based on that information.

Service providers have the responsibility to ensure everyone can access, understand, and act on health information. Techniques such as the chunk and check method, the teach back method, and using plain language help ensure all of us can understand important health information.

Tools to help public health departments and their partners implement health literacy-friendly practices:

Self-assessment tools:



Using plain language

Plain language means using simple words to clearly communicate. For example, instead of saying "hypertension," say "high blood pressure."

Plain language also includes using action words that tell people what they can or should do. Instead of saying "a diet low in saturated fat helps to reduce the risk of heart disease," say "help your heart by eating healthier foods."

Using visual aids also helps.


Using chunk and check

The chunk and check method encourages providers to break down complex information into digestible pieces.


Start by asking the client what they already know about the topic. Ask what questions they have. Identify and highlight three new pieces of information you can share based on their knowledge and questions. Use the chunk and check method to explain each key point and then check for understanding. 


Using the teach back method

The teach back method encourages providers to ask open ended questions to clients after providing instruction to gauge understanding. Instead of asking "Do you understand?" ask "Would you explain to me in your own words what we covered today so I can make sure I was clear?"

Practice with your co-workers to learn the technique and then use it every time you interact with people throughout the day, even through telemedicine.