Cynthia Baur, Endowed Professor and Director
Professor, Behavioral and Community Health
Endowed Professor and Director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy
Other Affiliations: Horowitz Center for Health Literacy
Campus: UMD | Building: School of Public Health | Room: Center for Health Literacy (2367)
Phone: (301) 405-0388 |

Dr. Cynthia Baur is interested in how people find, understand and use health information and services to decide on and take action to protect and promote health at the individual, community and societal levels. She teaches the graduate health literacy course and frequently guest lectures in other UMD courses. She is the Principal Investigator (PI) on multiple grants and contracts including an R01 from the NIH National Library of Medicine to develop and test a smartphone application (app) with prevention information for African American and Hispanic adults. The app is in English and Spanish.

She is PI on contracts with the Maryland Department of Health to provide technical assistance to local health departments and Local Health Improvement Coalitions; Prince George's County to provide health literacy technical assistance for a CDC-funded diabetes and heart disease prevention; FHI360 to provide health literacy expertise for a CDC-funded National Diabetes Prevention Program pilot project, and the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Pharmacy to provide health literacy expertise on FDA-funded COVID-19 messaging research.   

Prior to becoming the Horowitz Center Director in January 2017, Dr. Baur worked for 17 years in communication leadership roles with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C. She served as the Senior Advisor for Health Literacy in the CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication and CDC's Senior Official for the Plain Writing Act implementation.

During her federal tenure, she led multiple initiatives to define best practices and guidelines in health communication and health literacy. She was the first manager of the Healthy People health communication objectives and the editor of the U.S. National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. At CDC, she created CDC’s health literacy website, which provides tools and online training to improve health literacy and public health, and she is the co-creator of the CDC Clear Communication Index, a set of scientific criteria for creating clear public communication materials. Her approach is based in communication science and focuses on providing diverse audiences with information in ways they can understand and use.

Education and Training

Ph.D. in Communication, Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego. September, 1995

M.A. in Communication, Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego. December, 1992

B.A. in Rhetoric, Department of Rhetoric, University of California, Davis. June 1983


HLTH674 Health Literacy (listed as HLTH 688L Special Topics in Fall 2020)

Honors and Awards

Health Literacy Hero 2015, Institute for Healthcare Advancement. Given for championing health literacy and advocating for its inclusion in the national healthcare dialogue.

Cecilia and Leonard Doak Health Literacy Champion Award 2013. Given by Health Literacy Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri in recognition of national leadership in health literacy.

McGovern Award 2013. Given by the American Medical Writers Association in recognition of leadership in the areas of health communication, health literacy, and risk communication.


Dr. Alice Horowitz, Dr. Catherine Maybury, Dr. Devlon Jackson, Dr. Neil Sehgal, Dr. Robert Gold


Baur C. (2020). Taking stock of health literacy practices, In Logan RA & Siegel ER (eds.). Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. IOS Press.

Baur C. (2020). What must health literacy stakeholders do to build a public health and population health agenda? In Logan RA & Siehel ER (eds.). Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. IOS Press.

Jackson DN, Trivedi N, Baur C. (2020). Reprioritizing digital health and health literacy in Healthy People 2030 to affect health equity. Health Communication.

Rudd R, Baur C. (2020). Health literacy and early insights during a pandemic. Journal of Communication in Healthcare.

Platter H, Kaplow K, Baur C. (2019). Community Health Literacy Assessment: A systematic framework to assess activities, gaps, assets, and opportunities for health literacy improvement. HLRP: Health Literacy Research and Practice.

Baur C, Harris L, Squire E. (2017). The U.S. National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy: A model for positive organizational change. In Logan RA & Siegel ER (eds.). New Directions in Health Literacy Research, Theory, and Practice. IOS Press Ebooks 

Parmer J, Baur C, Eroglu E, Lubell K, Prue C, Reynolds B, and Weaver J. (2016).Crisis and emergency risk messaging in mass media news stories: Is the public getting the information they need to protect their health? Health Communication, doi: 10.1080/10410236.2015.1049728.

Baur C and Deering MJ. (2015).Digital Health Technologies for Consumers, Patients, and Caregivers. In Ethical Health Informatics: Challenges and Opportunities, 3rd Ed. Harman LB and Cornelius F (Eds.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Deering MJ and Baur C. (2015). Patient portals can enable provider-patient collaboration and person-centered care. In Information Technology for Patient Empowerment in Healthcare, Grando MA, Rozenblum R, and Bates DW (Eds). (pp. 93-111). Boston: Walter de Gruyter Inc.

Parmer J and Baur C. (2015). How CDC is promoting a clear communication culture. Medical Writing 24(1):9-13.

Baur C and Prue C. (2014). The CDC Clear Communication Index Is a New Evidence-Based Tool to Prepare and Review Health Information. Health Promotion Practice web first. doi: 10.1177/1524839914538969.

Robinson MN, Tansil KA, Elder RW, Soler RE, Labre MP, Mercer SL, Eroglu D, et al. (2014). Mass media health communication campaigns combined with health-related product distribution: A Community Guide systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 47(3):360-371.

Baur C and Brach C. (2013). Pharmacy Research on Health Literacy Can Contribute to National Goals and Health Care System Improvements. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy 9(5):498-502.

Koh HK, Baur C, Brach C, Harris LM, Rowden JN. (2013). Toward a Systems Approach to Health Literacy Research. Journal of Health Communication 18:1-5.

Koh HK, Berwick DM, Clancy CM, Baur C, Brach C, Harris LM, and Zerhusen EG. (2012). New federal policy initiatives to boost health literacy can help the nation move beyond the cycle of costly “crisis care.” Health Affairs web first. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2011.1169

Baur C. (2012). Health Information Technology Policy Issues: Relevance and Implications for ehealth Applications. In eHealth Applications: Promising Strategies for Behavior Change, Noar SM and Harrington NG (Eds). (pp. 246-262). New York: Routledge.

Brach C, Keller D, Hernandez LM, Baur C, Parker R, Dreyer B, Schyve P, Lemerise AJ, Schillinger D. (2012, June). Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations. Institute of Medicine Discussion Paper. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine.

Brach C, Dreyer B, Schyve P, Hernandez LM, Baur C, Lemerise AJ, Parker R. (2012, January). Attributes of a Health Literate Organization. Institute of Medicine Discussion Paper. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine.

Baur C. (2011). Calling the nation to act: Implementing the national action plan to improve health literacy. Nursing Outlook 59(2):63-69.

Baur C & Ostrove N. (2011). Testing rules of thumb and the science of health literacy. Annals of Internal Medicine 155(2):129-130.

Johnson SE, Baur C, Meissner HI. (2011). Back to basics: Why basic research is needed to create effective health literacy interventions. Journal of Health Communication 16(sup3):22-29.

Baur C. (2010). New Directions in Research on Public Health and Health Literacy. Journal of Health Communication 15(sup2):42-50.

Baur C, ed. (2010). National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington: D.C. 

Baur C, ed. (2009). Improving Health Literacy for Older Adults - Expert Panel Report. CDC: Atlanta, GA

Baur C, ed.  (2003). Communicating Health: Priorities and Strategies for Progress. Healthy People 2010 Health Communication Action Plans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Washington, D.C.