IAPO Americas

Patient information and health literacy

It is essential that patients are empowered with the information they need to make informed decisions about healthcare treatments and living with their condition.

Without accurate, relevant and comprehensive information patients lose control of the key choices that affect their lives. IAPO defines patient information as all forms of health information that relate to a patients’ specific disease or condition, treatments, medication and health services.

Providing effective patient information means acknowledging, understanding and overcoming barriers to health literacy that individuals might experience. Health literacy includes an individual's reading level, as well as language, education level and cultural background. Also, individual readiness to receive health information orally or in other formats and to take action, is crucial.

All these factors may create barriers to understanding and limit a patient's ability to take action to improve their health.  By affecting a person's ability to make informed decisions about his or her health, poor health literacy can mean treatment is ineffective. Poor levels of health literacy exist in all countries.


In order to improve health literacy, all stakeholders must:

  • Acknowledge the problem of low health literacy worldwide
  • Review the health-related information they produce and how this is communicated
  • Revise existing information and produce all future information according to health literacy guidelines like IAPO's

Download the Policy Statement on Health Literacy

Download the Guidelines on Health Literacy

Download the Policy Statement on Patient Information