UCB's goal is simple: making sure those with epilepsy understand important health information so they can make informed health decisions.

What is Health Literacy?

Personal Health Literacy

The degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1

Organizational Health Literacy

The degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1

Health literacy has historically been defined on a personal level. Now it is also defined at an organizational level. Healthcare systems and other entities can use this definition to inform their process of helping people comprehend their information. Putting the responsibility of health literacy content on organizations is integral to resolve pervasive issues for those with epilepsy.

How Does Health Literacy Impact Health Outcomes?

There are 3 primary areas where health literacy significantly impacts individual outcomes. Though poor health literacy spans many facets of healthcare, putting focus on these core issues can help bring meaningful change to a problem so often overlooked—bringing significant benefits to the patients that need it most.

Adherence Quality
of Life
of Health
Health Literacy


  • 30% of those with epilepsy do not understand key aspects of their medication regimens3
  • Higher health literacy has a significant association with fewer missed medication doses4

Social Determinants of Health

Lower health literacy is more common in:
  • Those with lower education and income4
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (Hispanics or Latino people, Black or African American people, American Indian people)5
  • Those with limited English language proficiency5

Quality of Life

Those with epilepsy who have poor health literacy have also reported:
  • Higher levels of feelings of stigma or social shaming from others4
  • Negative perceptions of their quality of life6

How Can We Improve Health Literacy Together?

Things like filling out complex medical forms, knowing risks and history of a condition, locating services, and understanding medication directions are all impacted by health literacy.7 Simple adjustments to the way we communicate can better guide those with epilepsy through the complex healthcare system—we are determined to do just that.

Here are a few ways we can all help improve health literacy when communicating7:
  • Identify patients with health literacy challenges
  • Use simple language and short sentences, and define complex terms
  • Organize information so the most important points stand out
  • Consider the impact of age and cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity of each patient
  • For HCPs: Offer assistance with completing forms and ask open-ended questions

Health literacy is an essential piece in UCB's mission of equitable epilepsy care for all, but we can’t do it alone. To learn more and help us address health literacy, check out these tools and resources:

  1. Santana S, Brach C, Harris L, Ochiai E, et al. Updating health literacy for healthy people 2030: defining its importance for a new decade in public health. J Public Health Manage Pract. 2021:27(6);S258-S264.
  2. Network of the National Library of Medicine. An Introduction to Health Literacy. Accessed December 7, 2021. https://nnlm.gov/guides/intro-health-literacy
  3. Stormacq C, Wosinski J, Boillat E, Van den Broucke S. Effects of health literacy interventions on health-related outcomes in socioeconomically disadvantaged adults living in the community: a systematic review. JBI Evidence Synthesis. 2020;18(7):1389-1469.
  4. Sudhaker S, Aebi ME, Burant C, Wilson B, et al. Health literacy education level correlates of participation and outcome in a remotely delivered epilepsy self-management program. Epilepsy Behav. 2020:107;1-15.
  5. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. Health Literacy. Accessed December 7, 2021. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/health-literacy
  6. Bautista RED, Tannahill GE, Shetty NK, Wludyka P. The association between health literacy and outcomes of care among epilepsy patients. Seizure. 2009:18;400-404.
  7. Health Resources & Services Administration. Health Literacy. Accessed December 7, 2021. https://www.hrsa.gov/about/organization/bureaus/ohe/health-literacy/index.html