Health Literacy

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is about people having the knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence they need to be able to use healthcare information and services, so that they can be active partners in their healthcare. Health literacy levels in England are very low with 43% of 16 to 65-year-olds having problems understanding written health information; and 61% of 16 to 65-year-olds having difficulties with health information that includes both text and numbers (Rowlands et al., 2015).



Why is it important?

People with low health literacy may be more likely to miss appointments, misunderstand instructions on prescribed medication, miss key information about their healthcare, and make uninformed decisions. Improving health literacy levels can help enhance quality of life, improve patient outcomes and reduce costs for the NHS.

Who needs to be aware of Health Literacy?

All staff working in healthcare- having an awareness of the signs of poor health literacy, and regularly using tools that improve and check understanding are key to delivering effective healthcare. Organisations have a responsibility to ensure that information is accessible, and that the healthcare environment doesn’t add to health literacy issues, for example, clear signage.


Training opportunities at GEH

We offer Health Literacy training on a one to one or group basis. Please email for more details. We’re happy to offer our training virtually via Microsoft Teams.

Health Literacy via e-Learning for healthcare



Resources to support Health Literacy

Behind the Headlines
Reviews of health stories that have been covered by the media.

Accessible Information Standard
Information on the legal responsibility all NHS organisations have to provide appropriate information to people with disabilities.

Plain English Campaign
Provides advice on writing in an accessible way.

Visualising Health Wizard
Helps to find appropriate images to communicate risk to patients.

Patient Information Forum
Provide many useful resources and courses.

‘Please, write to me’ campaign guidance
Information on the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges campaign to improve letters to patients.


Tools and Techniques

Teach Back and Chunk & Check (available at The Heath Literacy Place)

Teach-Back: A technique for clear communication
YouTube video, by North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, on this technique for helping to ensure patients have understood what they have been told.


Quality Accreditation Schemes

The following schemes are an indicator of trustworthy and quality health information. Certification or membership is granted if information meets strict criteria.

HONcode Certification (Health on the Net) for websites and health apps

PIF TICK is the quality mark for UK health information





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