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  • Writer's pictureShaina Tennant

Health literacy – levelling the playing field

Updated: 6 days ago



In health, there is freedom. - Henri Frederic Amiel.

 

Our health can powerfully shift the course of our lives. And so it follows that autonomy over our health should be equally cherished.


Health autonomy is about sitting in the driver’s seat. Having all the information to decide what health means to you and how you want to shape it.


But, like most good things in life, we don’t have equal access to the opportunity to drive positive health outcomes. Second to (and often driven by) socioeconomic factors, health literacy is a significant factor in health inequality.


Research suggests as many as 1 in 3 adults in the UK are estimated to lack the skills to live a healthy life, and 2 in 5 people struggle to understand health information.  


A healthy life is a subjective term, defined differently across individuals and cultures. But the skills needed to unlock it are fairly well documented – as are the correlates of their absence.


What is health literacy?


Health literacy is defined as being able to access, understand, appraise, and use health information to make informed decisions.


For example:


  • Determining which health sources are accurate and reliable

  • Evaluating and weighing up treatment considerations

  • Analysing the degree, impact and relevance of health risk factors

  • Applying existing knowledge to changing circumstances

 

We’ve already looked at what can drive low health literacy. Importantly, it’s not all about educational background – health literacy can be personal and contextual, changing with the circumstances a person finds themself in, and the demands of the content itself.


When health literacy is low, the impacts are broad and significant. According to Public Health England, people affected are:


  • More likely to struggle with managing their own and their family’s health

  • Less likely to engage with preventative health services, including cancer screening and flu vaccinations

  • Less likely to have active discussions about their health, leading to health needs being hidden from providers

  • 1.5 to 3 times more likely to have negative health outcomes, including hospitalisation and death


The action


As a recently certified B-Corp, we’re aligned with the mission to do business that benefits all people, communities, and the planet. That’s why health literacy underscores every piece of content we create.


We understand that the health literacy ‘demand’ of information interacts with the health literacy skill of the individual. Together, they can unlock health behaviours and outcomes.

For us as content creators, this means writing and designing information so that people can use it with the skills they already have, empowering them to live their healthiest possible lives.


In support of this, here are just a few things we’ve been doing:


  • Getting PIF tick certified - an independently-assessed quality mark for trusted health information

  • Increasing our capacity for a variety of formats to suit different learning styles, including health videos

  • Reviewing and updating our web accessibility processes

  • Developing our internal health literacy processes

By creating patient education and health content that are accessible to more people, we hope to play our part in raising health autonomy for all.


If you'd like to discuss any of these ideas, we’d love to hear from you. 

You can get in touch at hello@wallacehealth.co.uk




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