Health literacy

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Health Literacy

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information. This allows them to be active partners in their care, and to use health and social care systems. People working in health and social care need to be aware of health literacy and use techniques that can help to increase understanding.


Why is health literacy important?

In England 43% of adults (18-65) do not have adequate literacy skills to routinely understand health information. 61% of adults (18-65) do not have adequate numeracy skills to routinely understand health information (1). Adults who have low language, literacy and numeracy skills, and their children and families, suffer the worst health outcomes in society.


Types of health literacy

There are three levels of health literacy. People need the basis of functional health literacy before they develop the further levels of health literacy.


The basic skills needed to function in everyday life and typical healthcare interactions, e.g. 

  • the ability to read appointment letters;
  • understand time;
  • follow simple medicine instructions.


Interactive health literacy 

The ability to interpret and balance information from different sources as part of decision-making process. To have the confidence and motivation to seek out information and make decisions.


Critical health literacy

The ability to evaluate information critically and challenge treatment options. To have an understanding of the links between health outcomes and broader social, cultural and economic factors.


Health literacy e-learning 

SHFT - access e-learning for Healthcare via OpenAthens. HHFT - we are currently working to have this e-learning to Green Brain.

Patient Information Forum How to Guides


Health literacy resources handout


Finding quality health resources online


What do you know about health literacy?

Why not take our health literacy quizzes to see how much you know?

2020 quiz click here

2021 quiz click here  

Please contact us if you would like training or further information about health literacy.  


1. Rowlands, G. et al (2015) British Journal of General Practice 65 e379-e386