Health Literacy - Impact

Health literacy - Impact

What is health literacy?

There are many definitions of health literacy available, the national health literacy action action plan defines health literacy as:

"Health literacy is about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information, to be active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems"

Health literacy relates to a range of communications including, written, spoken and visual. All health and social care staff in Scotland have a responsibility to support health literacy.

Why is it important?

Health literacy is essential for patient safety, self management and effective health and social care relationships with patients, families and carers. Improving and supporting health literacy can result in:

  • Improved health and health outcomes for patients 
  • Better patient and professional relationships
  • Improved understanding of medication information, instruction and adherence
  • Reduced risk of serious health problems resulting from misunderstanding and communication
  • Reduced re-admissions and repeat appointments
  • Reduced health inequalities


Who is at risk of low health literacy?

There are a range of characteristics that can impact on a person’s health literacy, these include education, ethnic background, language, age, illness and financial and social resources. However, you should never make assumptions about a person’s health literacy level as it is not always apparent. Everyone’s health literacy can be affected at any time, for example, when receiving new or distressing information. Therefore, it is recommended that you take a universal precaution approach in your practice and follow the following approaches with everyone that you come into contact with.