Health Literacy

Communicating clearly guidelinesLiteracy involves listening, speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and using everyday technology to communicate and handle information. It includes more than the technical skills of communication: it also has personal, social and economic dimensions. Literacy increases the opportunity for individuals to reflect on their situation and initiate change. Health literacy is defined as:

‘ability to make sound health decisions in the context of everyday life - at home, in the community, at the workplace, the healthcare system, the market place and the political arena’ (Kickbusch et al 2005).

Health literacy is an issue that challenges everyone to varying degrees. People who do not experience literacy difficulties in other areas of life may easily experience difficulty in healthcare settings because they are not used to the setting or indeed the vocabulary. They can struggle to make sense of health related materials with unfamiliar concepts. Emotions can also play a part - when people feel vulnerable and scared their ability to understand information is inhibited.


The Institute of Medicine in the US provides a very relevant description:

‘Health literacy emerges when the expectations, preferences and skills of individuals seeking health information and services meet the expectations, preferences and skills of those providing the information and services’ (Institute of Medicine 2004).

Literacy Audit for Healthcare Settings

HSE Communicating Clearly Guidelines

Integrating Literacy Guidelines for Workplace Trainers (2013 National Adult Literacy Agency).  It may be a useful resource for those who deliver training programmes in the community and health service settings.

helpmykidlearn.ieA website for parents which contains activities that parents can use with their children to help build their literacy and numeracy skills.  The activities are presented in a manner that will help parents with low literacy strengthen their own skills while engaging with their children. Visit (opens in new tab)


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