Health Literate Organization

What is a Health Literate Organization?

A health literate organization is one that “makes it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health.”1

At first glance, the term “health literate organization” may be confusing. The phrase “health literate,” either used as a noun or an adjective, had traditionally referred to a person. However, the National Academy of Medicine’s (formerly the Institute of Medicine) Roundtable on Health Literacy coined the new term in an effort to convey the need for organizations to address the challenges and barriers their systems present to the patients and families they serve.2 The term acknowledges the key role of the organization as well as the role of individuals.

Attributes of a Health Literate Organization

The Roundtable’s discussion paper lists 10 attributes of a health literate organization.2 Included under each of these 10 attributes are steps that an organization can take to help people find and use the information and services they need to take care of their health.

The document also provides an extensive rationale for why organizations need to promote health literacy at an organizational level. This rationale is helpful for anyone seeking organization-wide support for their efforts to create a better fit between the services that the organization provides and the health literacy knowledge and skills of its patients, clients, members, and consumers.



  1. Nielsen-Bohlman L, Panzer A, Kindig D. Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004.
  2. Brach C, Keller D, Hernandez LM, et al. Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2012.