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Health Literacy

Health Literacy is about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information, to be more active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems. Health Literacy is being increasingly recognised as a significant public health concern. Health Literacy can affect anyone at anytime for example receiving new or distressing health information. Never make assumption about a person’s health literacy level as it may not always be apparent.

Health Literacy in Scotland. Making it Easy from NES on Vimeo.

Those of us with lower levels of Health Literacy:

  • Are generally 1½ to 3 times more likely to experience poor health outcomes
  • Have poorer health status and self-reported health
  • Wait until we are sicker before we go to the doctor
  • Find it harder to access services appropriate to our needs
  • Find it harder to understand labelling and take medication as directed
  • Are less able to communicate with healthcare professionals and take part in decisions
  • Are less likely to engage with health promotional activities, such as influenza vaccination and breast screening
  • Are at increased risk of developing multiple health problems
  • Have higher rates of avoidable and emergency  admissions
  • Have higher risks of hospitalisation and longer in-patient stays
  • Have difficulty managing our own health and wellbeing, that of our children, and of anyone else we care for
  • Have greater difficulty looking after ourselves when we have long-term conditions

Further information can be found on the following websites:

Making it Easy – A Health Literacy Action Plan for Scotland

The Health Literacy Place – this website is the main source of health literacy resources in Scotland.

Introduction to Health Literacy – this video can also be found on the home page of the health literacy place.

It’s OK to Ask – Getting the most out of your health care appointment