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Health Literacy



Health Literacy

"Health literacy is about our knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence to be able to use health and care information and services to make good health decisions” (Western Health Literacy Delivery Partnership 2019)[1]

This logo, definition and tagline were co-produced by service users in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.  It has been endorsed by The Health and Social Care (HSC) Regional Health Literacy Forum.  The forum has representation from five trusts (Belfast, Northern, Southern, South Eastern, Western),  Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), the Department of Health and the commmunity and voluntary sector including Belfast Healthy Cities and CDHN.   

The logo has two parts representing individuals and communities (person) and health care providers and policy (health cross).  To have good health literacy for all, individuals and communities’ knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence need to be improved, alongside this health and social care professionals and policy makers need to provide accessible, appropriate and relevant user information, support and services.  

Why is health literacy important? 

Research has shown that low health literacy is associated with worse health outcomes including poor health knowledge and understanding of illnesses,  riskier health choices, more hospitalisations, greater use of emergency care, lower uptake of screening and preventative services, reduced ability to take medication appropriately and difficulty in interpreting labels and health messages[1]

Improving health literacy is vital to counteract many of the negative impacts of low health literacy and can result in improved health outcomes for the individual, better patient and professional relationships, more appropriate use of health and social care services and reduced health inequalities

Across Europe, it is estimated over 50% of people have low levels of health literacy. Research commissioned by Public Health England found that 61% of the working age population found it difficult to understand health and wellbeing information.  In Northern Ireland it is estimated that 17.4% of working age adults lack functional literacy skills and 24.1% lack basic numeracy skills. (Survey of Adult Skills, PIACC 2012)

The regional Making Life Better Framework includes a commitment under Theme 3 to “empower people to make healthier choices and informed decisions about their health by improving health literacy”.  Health literacy is also highlighted by a number of Councils under community planning and, as a social determinant of health, is a means of addressing health inequalities in line with prevention commitments under Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together.  

Aim of CDHN Health Literacy work: 

To increase awareness and improve knowledge and understanding of health literacy so that:

  1. People have confidence when using health information and services and feel better equipped to make health decisions
  2. Those who support people with health and social issues have a better understanding of people’s circumstances so they can provide the most effective and appropriate advice and help


CDHN Health Literacy Work

Training and support

  • We are currently offering FREE Health Literacy Training for people who work/volunteer in communities 
  • We offer health literacy training for health professionals, this can be tailored to different professions,  we have delivered tailored training for pharmacists and dentists in partnership with Belfast Healthy Cities
  • In 2021, we will be offering a new health literacy training programme for patients which will have a focus on shared decision making


  • The Self-Care Pharmacy project used a health literacy approach to improve the knowledge and understanding of self-care for minor ailments
  • The Building Community-Pharmacy Partnership programme (BCPP) aims to bring communities and community pharmacists together to reduce health inequalities using a community development approach.  Projects have specific outcomes about improving health literacy for pharmacists, community partners and the participants.   We measure health literacy in the projects and this data is used to influence policy and practice. 
  • The Covid-19 Information Dissemination Project aims to improve people’s health literacy about COVID-19 by providing accurate and up-to-date information to increase knowledge, understanding and confidence and enable people to make good health decisions.  As part of this work we developed a A-Z guide of COVID-19 words and terms, disseminate offical information and identified gaps in information and produced fact checked articles with FactCheckNI. 


  • CDHN are members of the Regional Health Literacy Forum, the Western Health Literacy Delivery Partnership and Belfast Healthy Cities Health Literacy Working Group
  • We have given presentations about health literacy work at a number of conferences and seminars and have contributed to policy papers and journals

If you would like to find out more about our work on health literacy contact 


[1] World Health Organisation (2013) Health Literacy The Solid Facts WHO: Copenhagen

[1] Logo, definition and tagline co-produced by Northern Health Social Care Trust (NHSCT) service users in the Northern Healthy Lifestyles Partnership as part of the Western Health Literacy Delivery Group.