Health Policy

HHS Endorses Patient Engagement in Draft Strategic Plan

In my post last month about integrating health literacy within an organization, I wrote about using an organization’s own strategic planning to help make your case for integrating health literacy and patient engagement. Well, just a few days after I submitted that post, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), through its own draft strategic plan, gave us a bit of gold to help us advocate for these things.

Every four years, HHS updates its strategic plan to define its missions and goals for the next four fiscal years. In September, HHS released its draft plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. You can find it here.

What’s really inspiring about this strategic plan is how much it values patient engagement and understanding, which it incorporates into its action plan for achieving many of its goals. While this is only a draft plan, which means it may change after HHS receives public comment, this is still an encouraging sign for advocates of patient engagement and health literacy. It shows us that HHS is willing to embed these concepts into its programs, policies, and regulations.

Here are quotes from the draft plan that show how essential patient engagement and health literacy are to HHS priorities over the next four years.

Empower patients, families, and other caregivers to facilitate the delivery and increase the use of safe, high-quality, person-centered care

“Expand the engagement of patients, families, and other caregivers in developing and implementing programs that improve the quality of care and increase access to services available to them.”

Consumer understanding of cost of care

“Support health literacy tools and partner efforts to promote understanding of health costs and terminology, so that consumers can choose the most appropriate, affordable health plan that meets their health needs.”

Reduce disparities in quality & safety 

“Increase available information in cultural- and health literacy-appropriate levels, and in alternate formats, such as in languages other than English, to improve access to health information.”

Ensure people have better information so they can make better decisions 

“Support programs and build partnerships with organizations that build the health literacy skills of disadvantaged and at-risk populations, and promote proven methods of checking understanding to ensure individuals understand health and prevention information, recommendations, and risk and benefit tradeoffs.”

“Communicate culturally competent and linguistically appropriate messages, delivered by appropriate messengers, including faith-based and other community organizations, in plain language and in alternate formats for persons with disabilities, using approaches that leverage new and emerging communications technologies.”

Promote better nutrition and physical activity

“Form public-private partnerships to promote health in schools and houses of worship, such as wellness workshops, physical activity, health literacy, and nutritional excellence programs.”

Promote healthcare access and reduce health disparities

“Develop and disseminate the use of culturally and linguistically competent, accessible approaches to reduce healthcare costs, improve quality of life, and reduce disparities.”

Support early detection and treatment of communicable and chronic diseases

“Improve HIV viral suppression and prevention by increasing engagement and re-engagement activities for screening, care, treatment and support services.”

Fund and conduct research on opportunities to prevent, treat, and control chronic conditions and communicable diseases

“Develop, evaluate, and implement high-impact public health interventions domestically and internationally, and advance policies to increase community and individual engagement in infectious diseases prevention efforts.”

Photo credit: Tom Finzel


Christopher Trudeau, JD Christopher Trudeau, JD, has a dual appointment as an associate professor in the UAMS Center for Health Literacy and as an associate professor of law at the UALR Bowen School of Law. Chris is an expert on health literacy, plain language and the law. His views are his own; they do not necessarily represent those of his employers. He may be reached at

Christopher Trudeau, JD has 7 post(s) at

Check out my: Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *