In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, highlighted that “efforts to improve quality, to reduce costs, and to reduce disparities cannot succeed without efforts to improve health literacy” . The IOM report emphasized that poor health literacy is a major challenge for individuals who need to find, understand, and use information to make informed decisions for health. Following the publication of the 2004 report and in response to rising interest in health literacy in the U.S., the IOM established the Roundtable on Health Literacy. Roundtables convene a broad array of stakeholders from foundations, health plans, associations, government, private companies, and patient and consumer groups to discuss challenges and provide a forum for exchange of knowledge and expertise. The Roundtable does not make recommendations, rather its mission is to inform, inspire, and activate diverse U.S. (and potentially international) stakeholders. The Roundtable's activities support the development, implementation, and sharing of evidence-based health literacy practices and policies. The Roundtable's goal is to improve the health and well-being of Americans as well as persons in other nations.
Since its inception, the Roundtable has explored ways in which health literacy relates to a diverse array of topics from medications to oral health to public health to health equity and more. In particular the Roundtable has served to highlight the issues central to the alignment of system demands and complexities with individual skills and abilities. Roundtable workshops and discussions, no matter the specific topic, maintain a focus on identifying and illuminating evidence-based health literacy approaches that foster high-quality, patient centered care. The work of the Roundtable has been used throughout the United States and globally to foster health literate organizations and approaches to improving patient-centered care and the health of populations. Going forward the Roundtable's efforts will continue to build upon past work, strive to maintain relevance to the field, and encourage and engage others in advancing our nation's health.