October 18, 2023
Why Health Literacy Matters & 3 Tips to Help You Bridge the Gap
By Rachel May Wilson

Every day, thousands worldwide find out they have a disease or a health condition that requires care. And each day, more and more people don’t get the care they need because they don’t understand what they have or their options regarding treatment and management. Also, without diverse populations participating in clinical trials, knowledge about the efficacy of a treatment can get skewed toward one population over another. Without diversity, doctors wouldn’t know why a treatment works in one population but differently in another. It’s information like this that can significantly affect how doctors treat patients.

This is why health literacy matters. It matters for better clinical trials; it matters for better treatments and it matters for better health outcomes.

Not familiar with the term “health literacy”? Here’s a simple definition.

Health literacy means you:

  • can get the medical information you need.
  • can read the information provided.
  • can understand the information.
  • can make informed health decisions.
  • can follow instructions for the treatment prescribed.

At Jumo, we believe everyone deserves access to relatable medical resources regardless of age, language, culture, or education. We also believe no one should need a Ph.D. or M.D. to understand what’s happening in their bodies or what will happen in a clinical trial they’re considering. Yet 88% of adults aren’t health literate, and 50% can’t read beyond an 8th-grade level. Here’s another scary statistic: 65% of people say they receive resource materials they can’t understand.

Part of the problem is that most resource materials are written on a 10th-grade or higher level. Combine that with forgotten information, Dr. Google, and advice from friends of friends, and it’s a perfect storm of confusion, fear, and misunderstandings. After all, a patient may be overwhelmed by a new diagnosis or the sheer volume of information they need to process to decide whether to join a clinical study or start a new treatment. In addition, patients may prefer to digest the information in a particular format, be it direct discussion, learning online, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or reading a brochure. Therefore, creating materials cognizant of an audience’s education level, cultural background, socio-economic background, and age is essential.

Having materials that are easy to understand is so important because, for clinical trials, misunderstandings can derail the research before it begins. If patients don’t understand what researchers are studying or what will happen during the study, they won’t join, much less stay enrolled. And if patients don’t enter these studies, new medicines can’t be researched to see if they’re safe and can help.

According to a recent article published by the CDC this past spring, “When patients are provided with culturally and linguistically appropriate information, they are empowered to create healthier outcomes for themselves and their communities.”

So, how can we bridge the gap between a doctor’s knowledge and a patient’s understanding? Below are three easy ways to help you do just that.

3 Ways to Increase Patient Understanding:

1) Write resources and materials that fit your target audience’s age, reading level, and cognitive level.

  • Make sentences easy to read and clear.
  • Use bullets wherever possible.
  • Use icons, infographics, or illustrations to help drive home your message visually.
  • Pay attention to word counts, syllable counts, and your use of familiar words.

2) Consider the target audience’s preferred language and translate the materials and resources into that language.

  • Invest in a reputable translation service to ensure the translation of your content is correct.

3) Create a simplified Informed Consent Form.

  • Avoid medical jargon.
  • Explain things simply.
  • Keep sentences short and to the point.

Interested in learning more about health literacy and how we do what we do? Visit or email to set up a quick call.

Rachel May Wilson
Rachel is the director of creative copy at Jumo Health, as well as mom to a 10-year-old boy, a 7-year-old boxer, and a 13-year-old cat that puts up with them all. She has won numerous national and regional awards for her writing.

Jumo Health develops age-appropriate, culturally relevant, and relatable educational resources for patients and caregivers. We have experience serving diverse populations, covering more than 160 health topics across 80+ countries in 120+ languages. Our various digital, video, and print offerings use highly visual elements and research-backed health literacy strategies to ensure that everyone can understand and act upon complex medical information. We do this through familiar mediums – from comic books and animation, to virtual reality experiences and authentic documentary-style patient stories – all customized based on audience. Jumo Health collaborates globally with more than 180 advocacy groups and community organizations to promote access and to ensure unique patient experiences are accurately represented.

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