Health literacy is an important societal issue, currently the focus of a large number of government outreach efforts. ReadSpeaker works with government agencies worldwide to increase health literacy by providing spoken versions of online content to assist those with lower levels of literacy or other issues making it difficult for them to comprehend online content.

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Source: Healthy People 2010). To be “health literate” is to possess the skill set required to understand information and services and use this information to make appropriate decisions about health.

Why is health literacy important?

Health literacy is important to be able to make decisions regarding one’s health. An alarmingly large portion of the population is believed to be health illiterate, including:

  • The 20 million people in the U.S. who speak poor English and 10 million who speak no English (Source: 2000 census)
  • The less than 60% of the U.S. population who speak English as a first language
  • The 10-22% of the U.S. population who possess only the very basic literacy level (Source: 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey)
  • Approximately 60% of Australians (Source: ACSQHC)
  • 46% of the population of the European Union (Source:

Healthcare costs for those with low-literacy skills are estimated to cost more than four times as much as costs for patients with high-literacy skills (Source: NIH).

What is being done?

Governments throughout the world are stressing the importance of health literacy and making information available to all and are taking steps to combat this issue. All websites and available public-facing information should be written in a way that can be understood by all, regardless of literacy level. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in HealthCare, which proposes a nationally coordinated and consistent approach to health literacy, has commissioned a study of the current landscape and context for health literacy in Australia. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has released a Health Literacy On-Line Toolkit. This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance and tools for healthcare practice assessment and how to implement changes in order to reach patients of all literacy levels. In Ireland, a partnership between MSD and the National Adult Literacy Agency has been formed, aiming to increase public and professional awareness of the importance of health literacy.

ReadSpeaker works with health organizations worldwide

ReadSpeaker has partnered with various health organizations worldwide, giving patients with lower health literacy skills the option to listen to health information. For examples, please visit: