Your personal health literacy starter kit  

Health and education organizations have an obligation to ensure that their resources are as accessible as possible, no matter your personal health literacy. At the same time, there are some things you can do to flex your own health literacy muscles, whether you’re at a doctor’s office, a clinic, or at home.

Practice Ask Me 3 

Ask Me 3 encourages patients to have three questions ready to go in their conversations with healthcare providers. These three questions will help you focus on the big picture of a health conversation and to take a more active role in making decisions about your health:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Use the Teach-back method 

Teach-back is a type of training for healthcare providers to make sure that they’ve been clear in the information and instructions they’re providing patients.

Even if your provider doesn’t use teach-back, you can borrow the basic idea! At the end of a discussion, try repeating back what you’ve learned. Here’s an example: “So, to make sure I understand, I should be taking one of these pills with food in the morning and another one in the evening. Is that correct?”

Sharing what you’ve learned will help your provider realize if they’ve provided unclear instructions or guidance.

Benefit from visuals and other resources 

When you’re with a healthcare provider, ask for handouts or pamphlets if you need a visual to help you process information more fully. You might also find it helpful to bring a loved one with you to an appointment so that they can think of additional questions or even take notes for you while you listen.

Find reliable health information   

If you’re looking for health information online, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recommends finding websites that do the following:

  • Tells who wrote the information. The author should be a healthcare worker or a healthcare organization with expertise in the topic.
  • Exists to help people, not sell things. Helpful sites often, but not always, end with an .edu, .gov, or .org.
  • Does not ask for personal information, like your birthday, social security number or credit card number.