Health Care or Healthcare?


By Nurse Writer Dow
July 10, 2022

Welcome to Nurse Dow’s health care blog!

Or should it be healthcare blog?

Perhaps health-care blog?

In my research as a freelance medical writer, I’ve come across the words health and care perhaps more than any others. Professional writers like me do not always spell or apply them correctly. I know I’m not alone either in wondering which version or style to use.

Here’s what I discovered.

Merriam-Webster (M-W) Dictionary, Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) define “health care” as a noun that represents both the managing or repairing of one’s health and the delivery of professional services in this capacity. As examples, we get annual physicals as part of our routine health care and nurses administer health care. The compound “healthcare” is simply listed in M-W as an alternative to health care and as a noun only. Additionally, this dictionary proposes the hyphenated “health-care” as the preferred adjective form, such as a health-care information or health-care costs.

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, too, directs us to a dictionary and references the above M-W recommendations.
  • AP Style says health care is two words, always and in all cases. The end.
    • This is the style I choose to write in unless otherwise instructed by a client.
  • reports that despite its growing popularity, healthcare is not yet a standard spelling in North American English. This version, however, may be preferred by a publisher. Healthcare is often used attributively and is seen more often in the UK.

Sample image of a Health Writer Not as straightforward as I’d hoped! Nonetheless, it helps to have some rules to follow.

I’ll offer a quick quiz to apply what we’ve learned.

Fill-in-the-blank with A) health care B) healthcare or C) health-care:

  1. My nurse practitioner is an exceptional ­­­________ provider.
  2. Affordable ________ is not available to everyone in the community.
  3. Citing conflict between local authorities, the ________ system is delaying a decision.


Answers: 1. C (A if writing in AP style); 2. A; 3. C (A if writing in AP style)

Also, B may be acceptable in #1 and #2 depending on the country in which you are writing.

Nurse Writer Dow