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Ways to Get Involved in Health Literacy

Check out opportunities to learn more about health literacy and get involved with the Horowitz Center! We offer an undergraduate and graduate course to build background knowledge and practical skills in health literacy. And, we offer students the opportunity to participate in health literacy research and projects. Read on to learn about how to work with the Center.

Health Literacy and Communication Courses

These courses are offered by the School of Public Health. Independent studies are also available. An independent study is an opportunity for students to explore and research a topic of personal interest related to health literacy. Please contact the Center for more information (

Undergraduate, 3 credits, offered in fall and spring semesters

Examination of the characteristics and uses of media platforms and digital technologies to expand the capability to identify and reduce community and public health risks at all levels of prevention. Also considered will be the potential threats these new media can play on individual choice, privacy, confidentiality, and social influence -- which themselves can pose health threats to community and public health.

Read the Spring 2023 syllabus 

Undergraduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall and spring semesters

This course will introduce you to the concept of health literacy and guide you in developing the knowledge and skills to advocate for yourself, family, friends, neighborhood and community, and engage productively with healthcare providers, systems, and policy. You will explore your own and others’ perspectives of health information and communication, and different pathways and strategies to help create the conditions for informed and engaged individuals and communities. 

The course will cover health literacy from a human perspective (what you can do for yourself and others) and a systems perspective (what you can do to get healthcare systems, including providers, to promote health literacy). Course activities include background readings, individual assignments, in-class discussions, group projects in and outside of the classroom, a mid-term exam, and a semester-long project that culminates with a final paper, brief, and slide presentation.

Review the HLTH431 Spring 2024 syllabus

Reflections from Past HLTH431 Students

The reflection assignment asks students to reflect on the most valuable skills and knowledge they gained throughout the course and what they plan to do with what they learned. Here are a few excerpts from their reflections.

"The most valuable skills and knowledge I gained from the course is understanding the importance of the way health information is delivered. I will take this with me into my professional career to ensure the comprehension of health information as I work in the dental field."

"Being a health literate student opened my eyes to the perspective of others, and their experiences and to be compassionate in my interactions with others who are different from me."

"[...] when I visit my doctors, I have found that since the start of the semester, I feel much more comfortable speaking up during the appointment, asking questions, and advocating for myself. I have also found that I am analyzing health literature that either myself or a family member is given to pull out what is most important to remember.

"This class has inspired me [to] do community level work to advance health literacy. I want to advocate for health literacy as an issue of social justice and health equity and do hope that I will get opportunities to serve towards public health at the ground roots level."

"When I become a physician assistant, I will always use these skills to facilitate communication between me and my patients. I think this class is indispensable for any student who intends to work in the health system."

Graduate, 3 credits, offered in the spring semester

An exploration of the the broad and diverse field of health communication including medical encounters, everyday communication about health, advertising, news, public health campaigns, community outreach, public policy, and international programs. Theories and applied efforts that have been studied and documented will be examined.

Graduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall semester

The purpose of this course is to introduce graduate students to health literacy research, practice, and skills. The course will develop students understanding of how health literacy is both a barrier and an asset for health and how health literacy affects a wide range of outcomes. Students will learn the basics of health literacy concepts, models, and research methods, and discuss similarities and differences in health literacy research in clinical and public health settings. Students will study key health topics, populations, and contexts for health literacy research and practice. The course will describe professional skills necessary for effective public health communication practice and provide opportunities to practice the skills. The implications of research for public health practice, policy, and consumer/patient interventions and behavior will be integrated so that public health practitioners and researchers are prepared to address health literacy in their future work.

Review the Fall 2023 syllabus

Student Testimonial

“Inspired by our work in the HLTH431 class, we translated our project into a student- run organization - the Hu-MAN-Kind Project. This course not only taught us valuable lessons, but also gave us the unique opportunity to translate what we learned in the classroom into the real world.”

Deepti Ghimire, Public Health Science, '23

Other Relevant Courses

These courses are offered from UMD colleges and schools outside of the School of Public Health.

Undergraduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall semester

Does every individual have a fair shot at living a long and healthy life? What are the roles that information plays in creating and intensifying health disparities? How can we harness information to prevent and address health disparities? In this course, we explore health justice: the conviction and enactment of the idea that every person is morally entitled to a fair and sufficient capability to be healthy. We especially focus on the ways in which information-related factors, such as people's access to health information, their strategies for seeking (or avoiding) health information, and their health and digital health literacy, contribute to health (in)justice. Our goal in this class is to promote health justice for all by identify information-related solutions that will help to facilitate people's access to health information and improve their abilities to find, assess, and make use of information to optimize their own and others' health.

Note: This is a Carillon Communities course for incoming freshmen

Review the Fall 2023 syllabus.

Undergraduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall semester

In this course, we will investigate the fields of Consumer Health Informatics and Information Behavior, focusing most heavily on their intersection – Consumer Health Information Behavior. We will explore people’s health-related information needs and whether, how, and why people seek out and use (or do not seek out and use) health information and the types of health information they find useful. We will also cover the important and interrelated topics of information avoidance, health behaviors, health literacy, digital health literacy, doctor-patient communication, and patient-to-patient communication through support groups and online communities. Throughout the course, we will also focus on the important concept of health justice — a world in which everyone has an adequate and equitable capability to be healthy. We will identify populations that frequently experience social injustice and explore the information-related factors (such as information access or lack thereof) that contribute to the health inequities that members of these populations tend to face and the broader consequences that often ensue. In the final week of the course, we will focus on ways to facilitate people’s access to health information and their health-related information seeking, and to promote health justice for all.

Review the Fall 2023 syllabus

  • Note: the course was formerly called INST408A; that is the number that appears on the syllabus

Graduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall and spring semesters

In this course, we investigate Consumer Health Informatics and Information Behavior, focusing most heavily on their intersection - Consumer Health Information Behavior. We explore people's health- related information needs and whether, how, and why people seek out and use (or do not seek out and use) health information. We also look at information avoidance, health behaviors, health literacy, digital health literacy, doctor-patient communication, and patient- to-patient communication. Throughout the course, we emphasize the importance of health justice - a world in which everyone has an adequate and equitable capability to be healthy. We will identify populations that experience social injustice and explore information-related factors that contribute to the health inequities they face and the resulting consequences. Our central aim in the course is to conceive of ways to facilitate people's access to health information and their health-related information seeking, and to promote health justice for all.

Review the Fall 2023 syllabus

Graduate, 3 credits, offered in the fall and spring semesters

Personal Health Informatics cover a broad concept that encompasses an array of approaches to collect, store, share, analyze, and reflect on personal health data. Not only health care providers are relying on Health Technologies to improve patient care, people are increasingly using health devices and apps in their everyday life. Individuals have started using new technologies to collect data, increase awareness, and reflect on and change their behaviors. They also use various tools for curiosity and fun. This course will provide an overview of this exciting field and examine how social and behavioral theories can be applied to create effective health applications. It is difficult to create health technologies that can successfully be integrated into people's daily life due to many obstacles in individuals' data collection, integration, self-reflection, and sharing practices. Understanding these challenges is an important part of designing Health Technologies. Therefore, this course will cover HCI and design thinking methods that you can leverage in understanding the adoption of Health Technologies. Moreover, visualizations facilitate people to gain insights from their data, so we will cover common visualization approaches used in the personal data contexts.

Jointly offered with CMSC838X. Credit only granted for INST682 or CMSC838X. Note that CMSC838X is only offered in the fall semester.

Review the 2023 Spring syllabus

Internships and Other Opportunities

Click through the tabs below to see how you can get involved with the Center. You can also check out our past student projects to see what other students have done with us.

Undergraduate Internships

Undergraduate internships are for Behavioral and Community Health Majors with required internships or SPH students interested in a voluntary internship. Students must take the health literacy course HLTH431 before they can apply.

Student Club: Schools for Smiles

Students who are interested in dentistry and medicine can also volunteer with Schools for Smiles, a student organization that provides oral hygiene lessons in local elementary schools.

Graduate Internships

Graduate internships are for students in the Master of Public Health or Master of Health Administration degree programs and have a required practicum/internship, or for graduate students in another program interested in an internship with the Center. Students are strongly encouraged to take a health communications course (or related) and must take HLTH674 before they can apply.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate students who work with the Center get involved in quantitative and qualitative research projects that impact community health and health literacy. Center faculty currently focus on family health, oral health, digital technologies, and disease prevention/health promotion. Students must take a health communications (or related) course and a health literacy course (with an A or A- grade) before they can apply.

Independent Studies

Graduate students who have taken a health communications (or related) course and a health literacy course (with an A or A- grade) may qualify for an independent study with the Horowitz Center. Please email for more information.

Student Volunteers

Volunteers are non-SPH students with prior experience or education in communication, journalism, information sciences, or health-related areas such as medical anthropology or sociology and interested in learning more about health literacy. 

Don't forget to fill out our Student Interest Form if you would like to work with the Center!

Go to the form about Go to the form

Graduate Awards 

*Updated for 2023-2024* The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy sponsors the Rudd Research Award to foster innovative doctoral-level health literacy research relevant to public health priorities and contexts. Dr. Rudd is one of the founders of the health literacy field in the U.S., and she trained and influenced thousands of students and practitioners around the world. This award honors her contributions and supports the next generation of health literacy scholars. 

In the past, up to $30,000 has been available for the award, and the amount awarded depends on student need and budget. The funds must be applied to tuition, fees, or research expenses. Within 3 years of award, students must spend the funds and defend the dissertation. Read on for eligibility criteria and application information. Application deadline is March 1, 2024.  

2020-2021 Rudd Fellow: Laura Koo

Ms. Koo’s research examines the associations among parental communicative and critical health literacy, empowerment and advocacy behaviors in the context of food allergy management in elementary schools using a nationwide sample of parents of school-age children. Koo measures health literacy with an adapted version of Ishikawa, Takeuchi and Yano’s Functional, Communicative, and Critical Health Literacy Scale.  

2018-2019: Catherine Maybury and Heather Platter

Ms. Maybury's dissertation is a national survey of third- and fourth- year dental students to understand their perspectives on what is taught in U.S. dental schools relating to communication techniques shown to improve patient understanding and three regimens that are effective in preventing dental caries (tooth decay). 

Ms. Platter's dissertation is a mixed methods study examining provider communication techniques and knowledge of lung cancer screening guidelines. Her study will also explore barriers to lung cancer screening among older adult long-term smokers at high risk for developing lung cancer. Using a grounded theory methodology, a final theoretical model will be created, which can be applied and tested in future screening interventions.
Read about Dr. Platter's success as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow 

2013-2014: Kathleen Ruben

Ms. Ruben's dissertation examined the health literacy of decision-making partners for individuals with dementia in the Arkansas Independent Choices program and the potential impact of low health literacy on this vulnerable population.

Are you interested in how people find, understand, and use health information and services and use information for health decisions? Do you plan to make these issues central to your scholarly and teaching career?

The Horowitz Center is accepting letters of interest from doctoral program applicants to one of the following programs: public health, communication, journalism, and information studies. Interested applicants must apply to their intended degree program first and then contact the Horowitz Center.

The successful applicant will be accepted as a full-time student without conditions to one of the programs for the 2024 fall semester. The assistantship will be with the Center under the Director’s supervision while the student completes their doctoral studies in their home program. The student’s academic advisor and program must agree to this arrangement and be willing to communicate with the Center Director. 

This is a fully funded full-time assistantship for three years to work on Center initiatives and contribute to original research. Funding will cover until comprehensive exams or the 6th semester of full-time enrollment, whichever comes first. Additional funding may be available for dissertation research.

Applicants with prior degrees in communication and adjacent fields, such as journalism and information studies as well as prior research experience with communication topics, are strongly preferred. Applicants with public health degrees and significant communication coursework or work experience are also eligible.

After submitting an application of admission to a degree program and for best consideration, please email a three-page letter of interest that explains your qualifications for this assistantship and your interest in pursuing a research and teaching career in health literacy. In addition, email one letter of recommendation from a prior professor, academic advisor, or work supervisor in the last three years who can evaluate your capacity for or experience with health literacy research. The recommender can email separately or let the applicant email the letter. All files must be pdfs. Email letters to Dr. Cynthia Baur, with the subject line 2024 GAship letter.

Please note, the Center intends to provide the assistantship offer with a program’s offer of admission, but the Director may delay an offer or not award the assistantship.