22 Sep, 2015

Improving health literacy to reduce health inequalities

Public Health England | UCL Institute of Health Equality | Sept 2015

Local action on health inequalities

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen to a level that enables a person to communicate effectively, understand written information and participate fully in society. Health literacy is people having the skills (language, literacy and numeracy), knowledge, understanding and confidence to access, understand, evaluate, use and navigate health and social care information and services. Levels of health literacy are also influenced by the provision of clear and accessible health and social care services and information for all (service responsiveness).

In England, 42% of working-age adults (aged 16-65 years) are unable to understand or make use of everyday health information, rising to 61% when numeracy skills are also required for comprehension. Additionally, many health information producers say that they lack the tools and skills to develop appropriate resources and initiatives to meet the needs of people with low literacy.