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Reference: Framing health literacy: A comparative analysis of national action plans. Heide Weishaara et al

This week’s paper of the week is brought to you by Professor Sir Muir Gray, 3V’s Founding Director.

Bottom line, chosen from the paper

Our analysis of national action plans shows that health literacy is a concept which provides opportunities to instigate discussions about a variety of health policy issues. Health literacy seems to have been successfully used to shape debates on health system reforms, patient empowerment, and shared decision making. The analysis shows that health literacy can, if applied strategically, help to focus policy debates on key public health problems and towards the development of previously obstructed solutions. While the malleability of the concept of health literacy might help to identify common ground, the risk lies in the pursuit of strongly contrasting priorities and solutions and in promoting individual level solutions to structural problems. By focusing health policy debates on the underlying systemic and structural causes of limited health literacy, public health experts might be able to learn from previous experiences and seize the opportunities provided by emerging health literacy debates, namely to advance innovative solutions to neglected, but pressing public health problems.

Implications for value improvement 

This is the result of searching the NHS Long Term Plan (1) for ‘health literacy’ and ‘statistical literacy’ using Adobe “Reader has finished searching the document. No matches were found.”

There are definitions for both health and statistical literacy, shown below:

Health Literacy

The term health literacy – the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information

Statistical Literacy

The term statistical literacy – the ability to understand and communicate probabilities which is shared by both patients and clinicians, sometimes called risk literacy is increasingly used.

Whatever meaning you use for the term health literacy everyone paying for or providing healthcare needs to think not only about the literacy of the people we call patients but also the literacy of the professionals. We analysed this in a book in 2013, a book aimed at 2020, but that is now just around the corner:

Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions: Envisioning Health Care 2020 (Strungmann Forum Reports)

Healthcare is a knowledge business not a technology business and we need to focus much more on both words and numbers, and how they are communicated.

Alexa, what is meant by the term strong evidence?


(1) The NHS Long Term Plan –