Pharmacy health literacy resources

Todd Vandenbark

Health literacy logoOne important component of health literacy is the ability to understand and follow instructions for medications:

Recently, a young Spanish-speaking mother anxiously brought her weeping, 18-month-old daughter to our office. Through a translator, she told me her story. “My baby keeps waking up at night with fevers and ear pain after receiving antibiotics in the emergency room.”

When I looked into the affected ear with my otoscope, I quickly recognized a pinkish liquid, with a sweet familiar scent – Amoxicillin – crusted inside her ear. Used three times a day. Just like the doctor told her, she said.

We delicately corrected her inappropriate use of the drug and explained that she should put it in her child’s mouth instead of her ear (from

In addition to doctors, pharmacists can play a crucial role in making sure patients understand what their medications are and how to properly take them. To that end the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has put together a “Pharmacy Health Literacy Center” page on its website. It defines pharmacy health literacy, explains its importance, and provides links to health literacy tools for use in pharmacies. These tools could also be used in the training of pharmacy students in order to increase their awareness of this important issue.

Are you a pharmacist or pharmacy student? What stories can you share about the importance of this aspect of health literacy? What steps do you take to ensure your customers really know and understand how and when to take their medications? Tell us!