Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 71–93

Plain Language: A Strategic Response to the Health Literacy Challenge


DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.jphp.3200102

Cite this article as:
Stableford, S. & Mettger, W. J Public Health Pol (2007) 28: 71. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jphp.3200102


Low health literacy is a major challenge confronting American and international health organizations. Research in the past decade has documented the prevalence of limited literacy and limited health literacy skills among adults worldwide. This creates a major policy challenge: how to create text-based health information – a common method of health communication – that is accessible to the public. Plain language is a logical, flexible response. While touted by American, Canadian, and European health policy makers, adoption and promotion of plain language standards and skills in health-focused organizations have lagged. Most text-based health information continues to be too hard for most adults to read. Barriers to more rapid diffusion of plain language are reflected in a set of myths perpetuated by critics. These myths are identified and refuted. While plain language is only one of many broad-based solutions needed to address low health literacy, the benefits to everyone demand increased use by health organizations.


literacy health literacy low health literacy health communication plain language reading skills 

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AHEC Health Literacy Center, University of New EnglandBiddefordUSA

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