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Health information: are you getting your message across?

“It is the duty of health information producers to be ‘health-literacy’ friendly in all they do. It is a crucial element of tackling health inequality and misinformation. This was demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health information must be accessible to all.’’

Sophie Randall, Director, Patient Information Forum (PIF)

Health literacy information from the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Health literacy widens inequalities

Health materials can be complex, full of medical jargon and numbers, and hard to interpret.

In the UK, more than four in ten adults struggle to understand health content that is written for the public and 1.7 million adults read at, or below, the level of an average nine-year-old.

That’s why it’s important for us to be able to share health information in ways that are easy to understand – clear and simple, that’s the key. Content full of medical jargon, numbers, and statistics isn’t easy to read, especially difficult for people with lower literacy levels.

Low health literacy has been linked to poor health, more hospital admissions, lower vaccinations, and reduced life expectancy. And low health literacy widens inequalities, those most at risk include communities with language barriers, people with learning disabilities, and people living with dementia.

How can we help people understand health information?

  • Use simple, balanced language.
  • Find the focus – concentrate on that.
  • Give context to online information.
  • Use videos, pictures, diagrams, and social media.

The NIHR health literacy article can be read in full here. At the bottom of the article, there are also a number of useful resources including a content style guide, a health literacy toolkit from Health Education England, and many more.

Don’t forget, as a Community Health Champion you automatically get access to FREE health literacy training with Health Literacy UK. You can find out when the next session is here.