The ability to create or choose oral, written, or graphic health messages that match your audience’s understanding comes from knowing about their health literacy skills. Better understanding of health materials can lead to informed decision making and potential changes in health behavior.
The Health Literacy Tool Shed is a free, user-friendly, online database of validated health literacy instruments. It serves as an interactive, one-stop shop that provides filters to help select research the instruments you need. The project was sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Get more information about this tool and others by visiting our Measures of People's Skills and Experiences webpage.
Also, check out the Clear Communication Index! A research-based tool that helps you develop and assess communication materials for your intended audience.
Measures of People's Skills and Experiences
Different surveys measure people’s literacy, numeracy, and health literacy skills and their experiences with healthcare. You can use these studies for ideas about research and evaluation questions or as benchmarks for your own results.
National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Surveys
- The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)– This study is an international survey conducted in 23 countries as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. It assesses literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments.
- National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) – The NAAL is a nationally representative assessment of English literacy among America adults age 16 and older. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the NAAL is the Nation's most comprehensive measure of adult literacy. The Health Literacy Component of the NAAL introduces the first-ever national assessment of adults' ability to use literacy skills with health-related materials and forms.
K-12 Literacy, Numeracy and Science Skills
- The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas, including reading, math and science. Although these data are not specific to health literacy, the results provide reliable assessments of the underlying skills for health literacy in the school-aged population.
- Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Questionnaire
The CAHPS Consortium has developed a supplemental set for the CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey that focuses on assessing providers' activities to foster and improve the health literacy of patients. While health literacy depends in part on individuals' skills, it also depends on the complexity of health information and how it is communicated. The primary goal of the CAHPS Item Set for Addressing Health Literacy is to measure, from the patients' perspective, how well health information is communicated to them by health care professionals.
Measures of Individuals’ Health Literacy
- AHRQ Health Literacy Measurement Tools
AHRQ-funded researchers have developed a variety of tools to measure an aspect of health literacy—individuals' reading comprehension in a medical context. The tools are for the assessment of health literacy in speakers of English and Spanish, the languages most frequently spoken in the United States.
- Health Literacy Tool Shed
The Health Literacy Tool Shed is an online database of health literacy measures. The site contains information about measures, including their psychometric properties, based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature. The Tool Shed is a collaboration among Communicate Health, the National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, Boston University, and RTI International.