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Health Literacy

on .

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the degree to which an individual has the ability to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. Health literacy also includes the provider’s ability to communicate clearly, educate about health and empower their clients or patients.

On a daily basis we are surrounded by health information, not just on a visit to the doctor but at the gym or on food labels for example.

Health information can be complicated and we all have a role to play in helping to improve things, whether you are a member of the public, health care professional or providers of a public service.

Watch our film here:

Follow the link to find out more about improving health literacy outcomes:

Why is it important to do something about it in Stoke-on-Trent (and North Staffordshire)?

In partnership with the Health Literacy Group UK,  Stoke-on-Trent City Council Public Health and Keele University we commissioned a pdf survey (1.02 MB) on the levels of health literacy across Stoke-on Trent to provide sufficient baseline data, which would help to increase understanding of the size of the problem and inform the design of future interventions to improve the health of the local population.  The conclusion of the report show that 49% of the adult population of Stoke-on-Trent has inadequate Health Literacy levels. 

Those with poorer health literacy are:

  • significantly more likely to rate their general health as fair, bad or very bad
  • significantly less likely to be close to relatives or friends whom they speak to or see regularly
  • significantly more likely to be aged 65 and over
  • significantly less likely to have access to the internet
  • significantly less likely to have qualifications
  • significantly more likely to be retired or not working due to long-term illness or disability and less likely to be working as an employee
  • significantly less likely to be White British

Our ambition is that Stoke-on-Trent becomes a health literate city in which:

  • people understand their own health needs (and those of their families), healthcare services and how to use them appropriately
  • professionals understand and recognise the importance of good health literacy and adapt their practice accordingly when dealing with citizens and patients
  • local organisations embed health literacy principles in their goals and practice

This is all in support of our stated goal to become a health literate city. 

We have shared these findings with people and community groups across the city, at (to date) four large-scale engagement events in order to generate awareness, commitment and  most importantly to generate ideas and projects around health literacy in Stoke on Trent and North Staffordshire.

Does Health Literacy matter? 

Jonathan Berry, Personalisation and Control Specialist in NHS England’s Person Centred Care Team, provides an update on the current work being done to transform health literacy and explains why it is so important and the positive impact it can have for patients. Find out more:


What are we doing around here?-It’s OK to Ask!


Health Literacy Friendly

Health Literacy Friendly a local assessment toolkit that organisations can use to gauge how health literacy friendly their organisation is and improve their health literacy level.

So why become a health literacy friendly organisation?

Benefits to People

It is good for the people you are aiming to help – by becoming a Healthy Literacy Friendly Organisation you will be able to help the 49% of adults in Stoke-on-Trent who have inadequate health literacy to;

  • access the right  services at the right time
  • navigate health services
  • attend appointments
  • engage with disease prevention
  • understand when they need help and feel confident to obtain it in a timely  manner
  • Communicate better with health staff
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviours, e.g. unhealthy eating, alcohol, smoking
  • Engage in healthy behaviours ; good diet, physical activity
  • Better understand labelling and how to take medicines correctly

Benefits to Organisations

  • Economics  - e.g. fewer missed appointments, less need for treatment of preventable illnesses, less waste of medications;
  • How effective you are – more likely to achieve aims by being accessible to all, may improve Health Literacy, confidence and productivity of own staff;
  • Reputation – enhanced when providing an effective, high quality service, if people feel their needs are being met;
  • Being recognised by the WHO and the NHS as best practice in terms of health care delivery

If you would like to know more about Health Literacy Friendly please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Examples of what others are doing

  pdf Stoke Speaks Out (1.08 MB)

  pdf Local Pharmaceutical Committee (513 KB)

  pdf Haywood hospital (666 KB)

  pdf Schools Sports Partnership (1.23 MB)

  document Health Literacy- A public health perspective  (701 KB)


The Health Literacy national demonstrations site:

Below are some slides which were used at the influence of health literacy on outcomes and learning from the national demonstration site event which took place on the 7th February 2018 in Nottingham 

document (1.65 MB) document Developing resources  (3.39 MB) document (1.65 MB)

document Why is Health Literacy important to NHS England? (1.65 MB)

What did we do? 

Health education and health promotion revisited, a paper by Don Nutbeam can be found pdf here (59 KB) .

Health Literacy Events in Stoke-on-Trent

The most recent Health Literacy event was held at Keele University on 29th June 2018, below you will find a summary of the event. 

  document Event Summary  (4.14 MB)

Do you want to talk to somebody about Health Literacy? Please contact Beth Downing or Mike Oliver 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 01782 233532 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.