What if you couldn’t understand your doctor?

Even for confident English speakers, communicating about health can be a challenge. But for those with limited language skills, the challenge is even greater—and the stakes are high. Just think how hard it could be to:

  • Understand a doctor’s orders
  • Describe symptoms to a paramedic
  • Decipher instructions from the pharmacist

Struggling to communicate in these circumstances can be frustrating, frightening, and even life-threatening. And that’s the reality for many members of our community.

The Need

According to the DuPage County Health Department, nearly nine out of ten adults have difficulty using everyday health information due to limited health literacy skills. Among the most significant barriers to acquiring adequate health literacy skills are low English language proficiency levels and cultural barriers.

Patients with inadequate health literacy skills are:

  • More likely to use emergency rooms and be hospitalized
  • More likely to have medication and treatment errors
  • More likely to suffer from chronic diseases
  • Less likely to follow their treatment plans
  • Less likely to obtain preventative care

In short, limited health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher health costs.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The Answer

Literacy DuPage is determined to give our adult learners the skills they need to be strong communicators and healthy members of the community. We equip all our tutors to cover health-related topics with every learner in our one-on-one program. We also maintain active relationships with healthcare organizations throughout the county, encouraging them to notice when language might be a barrier to a patient’s healthcare—and to refer those patients to Literacy DuPage for help.

Patients with adequate health literacy skills can be active, effective participants in their healthcare.

By improving their English language skills, patients are better equipped to:

  • Practice healthy eating and exercise habits
  • Locate and access healthcare providers and resources
  • Identify health information and medical history
  • Identify ailments and describe symptoms
  • Determine correct prescription dosages and measurements and read medicine instructions
  • Identify an emergency and practice calling 911

The Literacy DuPage Health Literacy Initiative

Literacy DuPage provides free, customizable, and accessible tutoring, with a focus on health literacy to accommodate patients’ needs.

We train all of our volunteer tutors to work with their learners on healthcare-related topics. Together, learner and tutor work on real-life needs and goals, such as choosing an over-the-counter medication, calling 9-1-1, or understanding a doctor’s instructions after an injury.

All Literacy DuPage Tutors receive health literacy training through:
  • Specific health literacy segments during the initial 15-hour new volunteer tutor training
  • Health literacy-themed workshops throughout the year
  • Additional year-round support: monthly peer-tutor mentor workshops, review meetings with Program Director after 35 hours of tutoring, and additional support meetings with Program Director, as needed
All Literacy DuPage Learners receive basic health literacy tutoring.

Learners from the Health Literacy Referral Program receive focused health literacy tutoring continually working on three or more health-related literacy goals at a time.

How Referrals Work

Patients can be referred to Literacy DuPage through several channels.

Referrals happen when:
  • A client requests a translator at a hospital or partner healthcare facility; these patients receive a Literacy DuPage card in their discharge packet or follow-up instructions
  • A client attends an advertised event held at one of our healthcare partners’ facilities
  • A healthcare provider attends a “Lunch and Learn” event, learns about Literacy DuPage services, and then refers eligible patients to our program
  • A client or healthcare provider finds us on Aunt Bertha, an online network that connects individuals to social services throughout the United States.


We are proud to partner with the DuPage County Health Department and AMITA Health.

Contact Information

Please contact us at [email protected] or call 630-942-5210 for more information.