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 HEE and RSPH accredited 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.

e-Learning for healthcare also offer an e-learning option

Health Literacy via e-Learning for healthcare


Resources to support Health Literacy

Accessible Information StandardInformation 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– Provides 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– This YouTube video by North Western Melbourne Primary Health network introduces this technique to ensure that 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 CertificationThe Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct (HONcode) for medical and health Web sites addresses one of Internet’s main healthcare issues: the reliability and credibility of information

PIF TICK is the quality mark for UK health information. To be awarded the PIF TICK an organisation must show its health information production process meets 10 criteria

Health Literacy Statistics

Discover the percentage of the population of your area and others with low health literacy and numeracy.

Data by 2016 Local Authority

Map of the estimated prevalence of low health literacy

University of Southampton and Health Education England (2020) Health Literacy. Available at: 


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