Professionals may underestimate people's health literacy needs, this may be because needs remain hidden as people attempt to hide them or it could be because people are reluctant to admit that they haven't understood information that has been explained. Everyone can be at risk of poor health literacy, particularly when hearing new or distressing information or when overwhelmed by anxiety or worry. You should not assume a person's level of health literacy or their level of understanding. It is recommended that as a minimum staff consider the following five approaches. 

National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch explains more about these techniques in this video.

Read more about these techniques below

Teach back

Teach back is a method of checking that you have communicated information effectively and that the messages you have provided are being understood and taken away.

Find out more

Chunk and check

Chunk and check can be used alongside teach back and requires you to break down information into smaller chunks throughout consultations and check for understanding along the way rather than providing all information that is to be remembered at the end of the session.

Find out more

Use simple language

Within health a lot of jargon, health terminology and acronyms are used. This can be challenging for people to comprehend. We should use plain and simple language to explain things as a tool for promoting understanding.

Find out more

Use pictures

Some concepts can be difficult to explain, both for patients explaining what is wrong with them and for professionals explaining what they would like people to do. Graphics and pictures can sometimes help communication.

Find out more

Routinely offer help with paperwork

It is not possible to tell by looking at someone whether they might have problems with paperwork or understanding health information. It is therefore recommended that staff routinely offer help with paperwork and other tasks that are asked of people during interactions with healthcare.

Find out more