Health Literacy Missouri Launches New Website

Health Literacy Missouri (HLM) officially launched its newly redesigned website today (10/10/2011) as a tool for Missouri health professionals to improve communication in their clinics, hospitals and community organizations.

The website, located at, was created using health literacy principles in language and design. It offers many resources, including a guide for becoming an engaged patient, health literacy stories from across Missouri and information about HLM’s three core trainings and plain language translation services.

"The launch of our new website marks a new direction for Health Literacy Missouri – one clearly focused on providing health professionals, health system administrators and community organizations with the tools to make health care clearer and more accessible for us all,” said David Walsh, HLM interim President and CEO.

HLM, founded in 2009, offers health literacy trainings with specific techniques to address challenges and effectively communicate with patients. It may sound simplistic, but in reality, there are many breakdowns in communication between patients and the health care system. Doctors may frequently use medical language like "contraindication,” when in plain language, they mean that a certain medicine or treatment is not recommended because of its health risks.

Approximately one-third of adults struggle with low health literacy in the United States. In Missouri, low health literacy affects 1.6 million adults.

The disconnect between health care providers and patients is not only a nuisance, but also a potential danger. Sick patients can easily become worse not understanding the correct dosage of medicine or knowing what kind of test is needed.

Among those at the highest risk for low health literacy are adults 65 and older, minorities, immigrants, low income families and those with chronic mental and/or physical health conditions. But all of us can have difficulty navigating the health care system.

The patient-provider disconnect is not only a dangerous issue but a costly one as well.

Based on research from the John A. Vernon, PhD, from the University of Connecticut and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), low health literacy costs the nation between $106 billion and $238 billion each year. For Missouri, the number ranges from $3.3 billion to $7.5 billion annually.

HLM helps groups assess their health care documents for reading level and clarity, create new materials and make their materials easy to read. Funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, HLM provides workshops across the state with the goal of making Missourians healthier by creating the conditions necessary for clear communication in a variety of health settings.