Public health literacy in America: an ethical imperative

Am J Prev Med. 2005 Apr;28(3):317-22. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2004.11.004.


One of public health professionals' major challenges is to provide the public with messages that are understandable and based on science. Traditionally, public health communication efforts have focused on the science behind the message rather than on how the information should be communicated and whether the message is understood. With more than one third of the U.S. population struggling with low health literacy, ensuring that individuals understand critical health messages is an ethical imperative for public health agencies, organizations, and professionals. This paper explores the ethical implications of public health literacy and the steps the public health community needs to take to promote a society that is public health literate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Educational Status
  • Health Promotion* / ethics
  • Health Promotion* / methods
  • Humans
  • Public Health / ethics*
  • United States