Health Literacy Consulting How-To Tip
October 2014

Health Literacy Month 2014: Be a Health Literacy Hero

October is Health Literacy Month. This annual event is a time when organizations and individuals worldwide raise awareness about the importance of understandable health information. Health Literacy Month has been going strong ever since Helen Osborne founded it in 1999.

Through the years healthcare organizations, community services, health literacy coalitions, government agencies, literacy programs, universities, and others have hosted Health Literacy Month events. These include how-to workshops for professionals, wellness programs for the public, and educational offerings for students at all levels.

The theme for Health Literacy Month 2014 is “Be a Health Literacy Hero.” Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams, or organizations who not only identify health literacy problems but also act to solve them. We can all be Health Literacy Heroes. Here are some suggestions about how: 

  • Spread the word. What inspired you to advocate for health literacy? Maybe it was when you attended a health literacy conference, read a research study, or participated in an online training course. Or as often happens, perhaps you were inspired by personal experiences when health communication either went very badly or exceptionally well. Take action this year by sharing stories about why health literacy matters.
  • Communicate health messages in ways that others can easily understand. Our job as health communicators is to clearly communicate important health messages. This job is not complete until we confirm that others can truly comprehend. Take action by focusing your message on just 3 to 5 key points, using words that your audience already knows or clearly explaining terms they need to learn, and supplementing your words with illustrations or interaction.
  • Partner with others. It can sometimes feel like you are a voice of one when it comes to advocating for health literacy. Please know that you are not alone. There are an ever-growing number of health literacy resources and partnerships. One is the excellent online Health Literacy Discussion list. There also are many regional and state-wide health literacy collaborations. A good place to find like-minded folks within the U.S. is at CDC’s “Health Literacy Activities by State.” Whether you join an existing network or start a new one, be a partner for action.
  • Be a Health Literacy Hero. This means finding health literacy problems and creating long-lasting solutions. To help, I commissioned my graphic designer (Mark Tatro of Rotate Graphics) to create attention-getting images of Health Literacy Hero Him & Her. I also commissioned Mark to create a Health Literacy Hero award form. You are welcome to use any or all of these materials in your Health Literacy Month efforts. All I ask is that you credit me as the source and include a link to the Health Literacy Month website. To request the Health Literacy Hero image files, please email me at 
  • Tell the world about how individuals, teams, and organizations are making a difference. Find out what others are doing and add a listing of your own. Here's a link to the Health Literacy Hero page of the Health Literacy Month website.

Happy Health Literacy Month, ~Helen

For permission to include Health Literacy Consulting Tips in your organization's newsletter, please contact Helen Osborne by e-mail at:, or by phone at: 508-653-1199.