NHS England Health Literacy course for people working with patients (2)

1 November, 2021

Dear Richard and all,

Thank you for your HIFA message 21 October about this 35-minute NHS course:


As you reported, the course introduction says 'The health literacy levels in England are very low: 43% of 16 to 65-year-olds struggle with text-based health information; and 61% of 16 to 65-year-olds cannot understand health information that includes both text and numbers'. My reading of the article to which this refers is that the authors did not report that 43% 'struggled', but that 43% scored lower than a threshold score that the authors selected, which is related but different.

Among the conclusions the authors suggest that 'rigour should be applied to the development of health materials, to ensure they are written at accessible skills levels'. There are indeed at least two approaches to health literacy: (1) to raise the health literacy level of individuals, and (2) to deliver health information in a way that the maximum number of people can understand it and, crucially, that they can tell whether it is reliable or unreliable. I suspect that much more could be done to improve the latter (and with potentially faster gains than could be achieved by efforts to improve individual health literacy). That said, I'm sure we need both. What do you think?

Best wishes, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator, neil@hifa.org www.hifa.org