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Health Literacy Tool Box

Learn about the tools available to help with your  health literacy needs.  

  • Plain-Language Checklist 
  • MaineHealth Guidelines to Effective Print Communication
  • Plain Language Thesaurus
  • Health Literacy Tool Kit
  • Teach-back Tool Kit

Health Literacy

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the ability to understand, communicate, and utilize health information. People need health literacy skills to make good decisions about their health.

Nearly 9 of every 10 adults lack the basic health literacy skills they need to fully manage and take care of their health (Quick Guide to Health Literacy Fact Sheet: Health Literacy Basics, US Department of Health and Human Services).

We can help!

The Education & Training department helps improve patient-centered communication by providing these free services to MaineHealth providers and employees:

  • Staff trainings about patient-centered communication techniques (health literacy, plain language, the teach-back method).
  • Patient education material review and development, including readability assessments.
  • Testing materials for usability with focus groups, individual interviews, and user testing.

Why does health literacy matter?

Health literacy has a significant impact on health outcomes and the use of health services. People with low health literacy skills are at a higher risk of the following:

  • Decreased use of preventive services, such as mammograms or colon cancer screenings.
  • More likely to have a chronic condition but less likely to know how to manage it.
  • More likely to go to the hospital or ED.
  • More likely to report poor health status.
  • Increased use of costly health services.

What can you do?

There are many things you can do to help patients understand and use health information. Evidence-based approaches include:

  • Using plain language when communicating with patients and their families.
  • Using teach-back with patients and their families to check for understanding.
  • Completing a health literacy training.

Creating patient education materials?

Connect with us! We will review your materials to ensure they are written in a patient-friendly way. Our services are free for MaineHealth providers and employees.

Health literacy trainings

Are you interested in learning more about health literacy? We offer a variety of trainings.

It’s easy to find health information online - but is it the information you want your patients reading? Learn how to find and share patient education online. This training will give you the tools to find reliable, up-to-date, and patient-centered information. 
Math is hard! Even patients who are well-educated have a hard time understanding and using numbers to manage their health. We will share tips and best practices about how to communicate numbers in a clear way so that patients and their caregivers can understand. Participants will explore how large a role numbers play in patient care and learn concrete tips to simplify numbers for patients.

The teach-back method is an evidence-based approach to ensuring that you have communicated information to a patient in a way that they can fully understand. Like other forms of patient-centered communication, it takes skill and practice to do well. This workshop will explore the benefits of using teach-back and provide opportunities for practicing and improving your teach-back skills. 

What you say and how you say it matters. Whether you're welcoming a new patient, giving instructions, or trying to get a patient to keep appointments, it is important to communicate in a patient-centered way. This training shares plain language writing techniques that will help improve patient understanding and compliance.

Writing material that patients can easily understand and use to manage their health is not as easy as it sounds! Learn how to use plain language and design principals to deliver effectively-written patient education. Participants will learn how to develop a well-crafted message, write patient-centered content, and follow MaineHealth brand standards.