During October, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) recognizes Health Literacy Month. Health literacy and health equity are related concepts. Health literacy principles can be used to advance health equity. Accessing and understanding information allows individuals to act on it, but they are more likely to accept information that incorporates health equity principles. Taken together, information can be clearer and more inclusive.
Health literacy is included as a priority area in the CMS Framework for Health Equity. Nearly 9% of the U.S. population are individuals with limited English proficiency and nearly 36% have low health literacy. Research shows that individuals with limited English proficiency and low health literacy report poor health status nearly twice as much as individuals that do not have these barriers. Insurance status has also been shown to be correlated with health literacy status as individuals with Medicaid have been shown to have an increased risk of low health literacy. Failure to address health literacy, among other cultural and linguistic factors, can result in patient safety and adverse events including diagnostic errors, missed screenings, and inappropriate care transitions.
Through our Coverage to Care (C2C) initiative, CMS offers a variety of resources that are designed to help people understand their health coverage and connect to the primary care and preventive services that are best for them. Below is a list of resources, including C2C resources, that you can share with the populations you serve.
- Download the C2C Roadmap to Better Care, which explains what health coverage is and how to use it to get primary care and preventive services. The companion Roadmap to Behavioral Health outlines mental health and substance use services.
- View C2C Prevention Resources, which outline the services that are available at no cost under most health coverage. Flyers are available for adults, women, men, teens, children, and infants.
- Review the Enrollment Toolkit, which is designed to help community partners, assisters, and other people who help consumers enroll in coverage.
- Review A Practical Guide to Implementing the National CLAS Standards: For Racial, Ethnic and Linguistic Minorities, People with Disabilities and Sexual and Gender Minorities, which is designed to enable organizations to implement the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards and improve health equity.
- View the Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan to help identify ways that providers can assess their programs and develop language access plans to ensure persons with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to their programs.
- Download Providing Language Services to Diverse Populations: Lessons from the Field, which discusses multiple approaches health care organizations use to provide language assistance services to persons with limited English proficiency based on the findings of case studies conducted with a variety of health care organizations.
- Visit the In-Person Assistance in the Health Insurance Marketplaces webpage to find resources that Navigators can use to help those they serve to understand health coverage and enroll in the proper plan.
- Visit the Health Literacy in Healthy People 2030 webpage to find tools and resources that the agency is using to help achieve its goal of “attaining health literacy” to improve the health and well-being of all.
- Visit the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website to read Health Literacy and Health Equity: Connecting the Dots and learn more about the relationship between health equity and health literacy.