Health Literacy

Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Common Table Health Alliance has identified health literacy as the dominant barrier to better population health in Shelby County.  According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, a leading authority on the measurement and analysis of health literacy of adults living in the United States, approximately 36% of adults have limited health literacy, and only 12% of the population has a proficient health literacy level. Cultural and linguistic differences among patients has directly impacted health literacy levels and contributed to the increased prevalence of health disparities.

CTHA has partnered with Literacy Memphis and developed a large-community awareness campaign designed to engage providers, patients, and caregivers.  The focus is to provide consistent messaging about the importance of primary care and empower individuals, who may have limited comfort interacting with medical professionals, learn how to get the best and most appropriate care possible.

Participants will:

  • Improve their literacy levels

  • Improve their overall health awareness

  • Become more confident with improved communication techniques

  • Learn and identify various health care professionals

  • Obtain practical knowledge about ER use, prescriptions, nutrition, diseases, insurance and medical forms

  • Grow a personal health support network.



For more information, contact:
Rose Lindsey-Giulian, PhD
CTHA Health Literacy  Faculty
901-684-6011 ext. 210            

Check out CTHA's Health
Literacy Overview >

Download the CTHA Health
Literacy Patient Survey >


CTHA's Healthy Literacy Committee  

(Standing from left: Jeremy Sanders, CTHA, Jessica Early, UTHSC, Lydia Crivens, Christ Community Health Services, Dr. Debra Bartelli, University of Memphis School of Public Health, Dr. Jim Bailey, UTHSC, Mike Sturdivant, Church Health, Stacey Early, Literacy Mid-South

Seated from left: Carrie Jo Riordan, UTHSC, Erin Fontenot, Methodist University Hospital, Dr. Rose Lindsey-Giulian, CTHA, Suzanne Harvey, Baptist Memorial Health Care)

The Facts:

Nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. 

  • Populations most likely to experience low health literacy are older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, people with less than a high school degree or GED certificate, people with low income levels, non-native speakers of English, and people with compromised health status.  Education, language, culture, access to resources, and age are all factors that affect a person's health literacy skills.

  • ·         The primary responsibility for improving health literacy lies with public health professionals and the healthcare and public health systems. We must work together to ensure that health information and services can be understood and used by all Americans. We must engage in skill building with healthcare consumers and health professionals. Adult educators can be productive partners in reaching adults with limited literacy skills.

  • According to research studies, persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to skip important preventive measures such as mammograms, Pap smears, and flu shots.

  • When compared to those with adequate health literacy skills, studies have shown that patients with limited health literacy skills enter the healthcare system when they are sicker.