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.

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is the ability to understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health care decisions.

Why Does It Matter?

Literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than income, employment status, education level, or race or ethnicity. People with low health literacy are more likely to skip important preventive measures and to enter the health care system when they’re sicker. They’re more likely to have chronic conditions and less likely to manage them effectively. They are significantly more likely to report their health as poor.

And low health literacy doesn’t just affect patients. It strains the health care system itself, resulting in preventable hospital visits and admissions, longer stays, higher readmission rates, and extra tests, procedures, and prescriptions. The estimated health costs of low literacy in the United States are $106 billion to $236 billion annually.

What Does HEAL Do?

The HEAL Program® addresses health literacy through classes for adults seeking to improve their health care knowledge and thorough training for medical professionals. Successful implementation of HEAL Complete can benefit the whole community, resulting in:

  • Improved patient health, safety, and satisfaction
  • Improved patient engagement
  • Fewer hospital admissions and readmissions
  • Reduced length of hospital stays
  • Decreased use of emergency services
  • Significantly reduced health care costs

What participants have to say

"I feel a lot more comfortable going to doctor appointments with my daughter after taking HEAL classes. I’m able to ask questions to doctors and nurses to make sure I understand. Also, I am able to fill out the paperwork on my own. Before, I always had to have someone else’s help.

Monde Rodjana Saochan


What participants have to say

“Regardless of the language you speak, you still need to know what questions to ask and you still need to take care of your own health care. Our language lines help people to interpret the language; this program helps people know what questions to ask.”

David Masterson

President, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center

What participants have to say

“I would absolutely recommend The HEAL Program® to my colleagues. The presentation was valuable and clearly presented. It gave our staff the opportunity to reflect on previous encounters in identifying patients that might have difficulty reading and certainly gave them the ability to spot these patients for future encounters.”

Richard K. Lodwick, OD

Williamsburg Eye Care