How It Works

Literacy for Life designed the innovative HEAL Program in 2012 to address the critical issue of low health literacy in the greater Williamsburg community, drawing on its expertise as a premier adult literacy organization with a 40-year track record.

Here is how the program works:


Literacy for Life offers an eight-week HEAL course for adults that increases their knowledge of current health care topics, medical terminology, and standard processes and practices. Students learn how to:

  • Describe symptoms to a doctor
  • Read and understand medication instructions
  • Use Urgent Care instead of the ER when appropriate
  • Fill out medical forms
  • Ask questions to better understand diagnosis, prescriptions, and next steps
  • Make lifestyle changes that can improve health


The HEAL training for medical staff raises awareness of low health literacy and provides practical tools and strategies for working with patients. The presenter provides an interactive, engaging training session packed with useful information. Key topics include:

  • Identifying patients with low health literacy
  • Communicating clearly, effectively, and respectfully
  • Creating easy-to-read materials
  • Checking for comprehension
  • Being culturally sensitive

HEAL Classes may also include a field trip to a local hospital or guest speakers from the medical community.

The HEAL curriculum has three tiers—basic, intermediate, and advanced—for learners at different literacy levels. The basic tier may be appropriate for a recent immigrant who knows and understands very little English, and the advanced tier may be appropriate for a native English speaker who faces some literacy challenges.