Health Literacy & Accessible Digital Health Information: Key Takeaways

A massive thank you to everyone who participated in our Health Literacy & Accessible Digital Health information event in Manchester, held in conjunction with the Patient Information Forum (PIF).

We enjoyed a packed agenda delivered by expert speakers, who provided guidance and insight into the challenges many face accessing an increasingly digital health service. With so much information shared there’s a lot to digest, so here are our key takeaways.

Delegates at the event

Abigail Howse, Quality & Evaluation lead at MacMillan Cancer Support, discussed how easy-read documents and British Sign Language resources like videos can meet the accessibility needs of different people. MacMillan Cancer Support has developed a range of free resources covering many of the most commonly discussed cancer issues. It’s not just those with learning difficulties who can benefit from easy read documents and health videos, says Abi. These resources support everyone to have a greater understanding of health information.

Digital technology, including Texthelp’s Read&Write literacy software, now plays a crucial role in delivering the support staff need.

Lower levels of health literacy are much more common among the socially and economically disadvantaged, also people with poor education, older people, and those affected by long term health conditions, sensory impairments or disabilities.

Jonathan shared some real-life examples of poor health literacy – from a patient spraying an asthma inhaler on her neck rather than down her throat, to a lack of understanding of the links between food and diabetes control. To hammer home the message, his presentation included an interactive audience session to demonstrate how disempowering and esteem-impacting poor literacy can be.

Ruth Carlyle highlighted that help is at hand in the shape of a health literacy toolkit. Developed by Health Education England, it can be adapted for local use to help develop effective approaches to improving health literacy.

The people who have the greatest dependency on the health service also tend to have lower digital skills with little or often no experience of using the internet. Steps are being taken through NHS Digital’s Pathfinder programme to redress this balance and open up the benefits of digital health information to all.

For more information on support technology for NHS staff and patients – visit our dedicated health page


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