Health Literacy and Why It Matters

Health literacy is all about understanding and using health information to make the best choices for your well-being. Just like reading a map helps you navigate new places, health literacy is the skill that helps you navigate the world of healthcare. It involves being able to read and understand health information, ask questions about your health, and communicate effectively with doctors and other healthcare professionals. When you have good health literacy, you can take charge of your own health, make informed decisions about your care, and live a healthier, happier life. It’s like having a key to unlock the doors of knowledge and better health.

If you’ve ever felt confused or nervous at the doctor’s office, wished that you had better words to express your health concerns or perhaps even delayed making an appointment because of these feelings, you’re not alone – a recent survey shows half of Americans with a healthcare provider are too afraid to ask them essential health-related questions. Almost 70% are worried they won’t be able to understand the terminology their healthcare provider uses. (Just what does “OTC” mean, anyway? And is a “positive test result” good or bad?)  

Since October is National Health Literacy Month, it’s the perfect time to learn more about health literacy and learn some skills to help you gain health literacy and feel empowered to take control of your own health care:  

Here are some real-life tips to help enhance your health literacy:

Start with some checklists and scripts. It’s okay to begin at the beginning – use this pre-made checklist to help get you sorted before your next visit. You also may want to start with this online ‘question builder’ tool, which will help you generate a personalized list of questions to bring to your next appointment. 

Watch: If you’d like to see these questions in action before trying them yourself, choose one or two of these short videos. Watch as patients talk about how simple questions can help you take better care of yourself, feel better, and get the right care at the right time.  

If you’re interested in getting the most out of your Cigna health plan, this short video will help you to learn about all the tools available in your mycigna account.

 Here are a few tools which could help you during your appointment:

Shared decision-making empowers you to make decisions alongside your healthcare provider.  Shared decision-making means working together with your clinician to make a health care decision that is best for you, taking into consideration evidence-based information about available options and your values and preferences.

Nine Questions Doctors Wish You Would Ask; pair some of these with the “teach-back” method. This will help ensure understanding in your own words – an essential piece of health literacy. 

If you are facing a complicated health diagnosis or trying to manage a chronic health condition and need some additional support, the Cigna Care Management team has your back. The Case Management team is made up of nurses, health coaches, pharmacists, and other staff who work behind the scenes to help customers, like you, manage their health conditions. These services are available at no cost to you, and anyone can apply. Participation is voluntary, and you can end at any time without affecting your health care benefits in any way.  Go to to learn more.

The significance of health literacy cannot be overstated. It is the key that unlocks the doors of knowledge and better health, empowering individuals to take control of their well-being. As we celebrate National Health Literacy Month in October, it’s a perfect opportunity to invest in your health literacy skills. The ability to ask questions, understand medical terminology, and engage in shared decision-making with healthcare providers can make a world of difference in your healthcare journey. Whether you start with checklists, scripts, or watch informative videos, there are practical tools available to help you become a more informed and confident healthcare consumer. Remember, your health is your most valuable asset, and good health literacy is your ticket to a healthier, happier life.

Article by: Rebecca Schubert with additional content provided by InvestEAP