A commonly accepted definition of health literacy in the United States is:
"The degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions." [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2000. Healthy People 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Originally developed for Ratzan SC, Parker RM. 2000. Introduction. In National Library of Medicine Current Bibliographies in Medicine: Health Literacy. Selden CR, Zorn M, Ratzan SC, Parker RM, Editors. NLM Pub. No. CBM 2000-1. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.]
As of August 2020, an expanded definition is now found in the Healthy People 2030 objectives. Both personal health literacy and organizational health literacy are addressed. These definitions expand the idea of health literacy to people's ability to use rather than only understand the information, as well as recognize the responsibility of organizations in addressing contextual factors of health literacy.
Personal health literacy: the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
Organizational health literacy: the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
"The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy envisions a restructuring of the ways we create and disseminate all types of health information in this country. The plan also calls us to ensure that all children graduate with health literacy skills that will help them live healthier throughout their lifespan. " From the Forward by Howard k. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health.
Landmark Health Literacy Reports
Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Institute of Medicine. 2004.