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Health Literacy for Interprofessional Education (IPE) eToolkit

Notes on this eToolkit for Interprofessional Education Faculty

We are a nation in a health literacy crisis. 1 in 2 U.S. adults have difficulty understanding and applying health information to their own self-care. This is according to a study by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which developed and conducts the Survey of Adult Skills. The survey measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills - literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments - and gathers information and data on how adults use their skills at home, at work and in the wider community. The U.S. results are troubling as noted above.

Health literacy is an important component of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative's (IPEC) Core Competency: Interprofessional Communication Practices. The contents of this eToolkit are meant to help address that competency.

To further this goal, this eToolkit is also based upon the first-of-its-kind consensus work published on interprofessional educational health literacy competencies by Coleman CA, Hudson S, Maine LL. Health literacy practices and educational competencies for health professionals: a consensus study. J Health Commun. 2013;18 Suppl 1:82-102. In this study, through a consensus approach among a group of 23 health professions' education experts, appropriate and important knowledge, attitudes, skills and practices for mitigating health literacy that are shared across eleven health professions were identified. Items with a 90% or higher consensus among the study's panel of experts are addressed within this toolkit.  Thus the following 10 competencies: 

  • Ability to:
    • define health literacy
    • understand the different domains of health literacy: reading, writing, speaking, listening, numeracy
    • identify patients with low health literacy/recognize red-flag behaviors associated with low-health literacy
    • practice clear health care communication: Plain Language; Jargon-free;
    • deploy teach-back/show me/chunk and check
    • create shame-free practices/clinical environments
    • understand the connection between low health literacy and patient self-care; quality-of-life; patient safety;
    • recognize the role of culture and language in health literacy
    • identify appropriately written low literate patient education materials
    • practice universal precautions for health literacy (found under the Shame Free Practices/Clinical Environments Tab)

You'll find these competencies and more addressed in this eToolkit. For questions, comments, suggestions regarding this eToolkit, please email the current author, Karen Flaherty at:

*original author credit to Michele Spatz