Health literacy is defined as the ability of an individual to obtain, understand and process health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions (Institute of Medicine, 2004). Those with poorer health literacy have poorer health, find medication difficult to manage and have greater mortality rates (Berkman et al., 2011). The Information Standard recently ran a workshop on Health Literacy for information providers, and we were fortunate enough to attend. Gill Rowlands, a GP and health literacy lead for the Department of Health, presented unpublished data showing that health literacy levels in the UK are generally low, and that low health literacy maps with areas of deprivation. Up to 74% of people in the low health literacy group were not able to understand health information commonly circulated by charities and the NHS. However, even in the higher literacy group, up to 24% of people could not understand the same samples of health information. This suggests that in order to improve health outcomes – aside from initiatives to improve health literacy – health information needs to be made more accessible to the general public. With the tools acquired at the workshop, we decided to review our BHD information pamphlets. Using the Simple Measure of Gobbledegook (SMOG) calculator, we found that most sections of the pamphlets scored 18 and above, meaning that some of this information might not be accessible to at least 43% of our target audience.
Via Evelyn McElhinney