Making it easy: a health literacy action plan for Scotland

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This is the National Health Literacy Action Plan for Scotland.  Although developed for Scotland it will be useful to others as it provides a really helpful insight into the impacts of low health literacy.  It locates the task of dealing with the ‘problem’ of health literacy, not just with those who have difficulty understanding and using services, but with the people delivering them to routinely ensure that people understand and have been understood. 

It sets out specific actions that can be taken at the level of organisations and individual health professionals to help address the challenge.

The Action Plan defines 'health literacy' as about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information, to be active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems.

It describes how people with poorer health literacy are more likely to experience poor health, find it harder to access services appropriate to their needs, fund it harder to take medication as directed, have higher risks of hospitalisation and longer in-patient stays and have difficulty managing their own health and well-being.

It argues that whenever people's health literacy needs are not met, the safety, effectiveness and person-centredness of our care is undermined: Ineffective communication undermines our capacity to be in the driving seat of our care, which is the cornerstone of self management, and key to person-centred care. 

The outcome that is being sought from this health literacy plan is a culture and practice which supports equal access, collaborative working and self management.  This means making it easy for people to access services, have better conversations with our professionals, and be in the driving seat of our health and healthcare.

It highlights four specific actions that will promote the required change in practice and culture by:

  • Raising awareness and the capabilities of professionals to address health literacy.
  • Promoting the development and spread of existing and new health literacy tools, innovations and technologies.
  • Improving access to these useful enabling health literacy tools and resources.
  • Enhancing health literacy at transitions of care, which are key learning and patient safety points in health and social care.

More detail on these actions can be found at www.healthliteracyplace.org.uk

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