Spotlight On: Health Literacy

Health literacy

You might have heard of health literacy, or maybe you haven’t, but what do you think it means?

The World Health Organisation defines health literacy as “the personal characteristics and social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health.”

Having good health literacy is all about being able to find health information when you need it, understand that information clearly, make an informed choice about your care, and act on the information with confidence.

Research has shown that individuals with poor health literacy are more likely to have more unhealthy behaviours and fewer healthy ones. Having lower health literacy can also impact on the use of health services a patient accesses, leading to inappropriate decisions for the patient, wasted medication, inappropriate use of health services etc.

But does health literacy really matter that much?

Jonathan Berry from NHS England says…

“The short answer is yes, because recent research in England tells us that between 43% and 61% of English working age adults routinely do not understand health information. This also has a financial cost – 3% to 5% of the annual UK health budget. Compelling though this is I often find that what really grabs people’s attention is the human cost. In many years of practice in this area my colleagues and I have come across lots of real life examples of where limited health literacy has had a really serious impact on people’s life in general, and health and wellbeing in particular.”

So health literacy matters. Below are some handy quick tips to help you begin to assess the reliability of any health information you come across:

1 – When was the information created, is it referencing current information sources?

2 – Who is the person creating/delivering this information?

3 – What is the purpose of the information?

If you’d like to find out more about health literacy and learn top tips to find the most reliable sources of health information more easily, you can book onto our FREE course The Better Information Programme here. Pick from 2 dates, the 7th or 19th November.

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