A Patient Information Forum (PiF) survey has found that although information producers understand why clear, easy to understand and usable health information for the public is important, many are not equipped to meet the challenge. PiF says this lack of support and guidance for producers could derail the government’s ambition for transforming information for the NHS, public health and social care.
Over 340 of the best-known health information producers responded to the survey including voluntary sector organisations, NHS organisations and commercial companies. The survey found that although more than 90 per cent viewed health literacy as very important when producing information for the public, only 10 per cent said they had a health literacy strategy or policy. Fewer than half produced online and printed materials with health literacy in mind.
When asked about the barriers and challenges to producing information that was easy to understand and enabled informed decision making, 73 per cent pointed to a lack of resources while 75 per cent said they had limited understanding of how to develop the right resources. One respondent highlighted the absence of any guidance saying there was ‘no written help on how to word patient information’.
Professor Theo Rayner, University of Leeds School of Healthcare, reviewed the survey for PiF. He said: “Enabling people to understand treatments is crucial to good and safe choices being made. Such understanding depends on the information we give people – and this report shows that the people producing this information lacks the resources to allow them to produce good information that we know works.
“It also shows that we need to make all health information usable for all – rather than just focussing on people with low literacy skills. Clear and well written information will not only benefit people with low literacy skills, but also those who can read and write well, but are not experts on health and treatments.”
Sarah Smith, Operations Director, PiF said: “Our survey highlights the need for better support, training and guidance for organisations producing healthcare information, in order to ensure that information can be understood by everyone, including those with low health literacy. Information producers are fighting a lack of resources, funding and investment in health information for patients. It’s time to address these issues and provide people with information that meets their needs. ”
You can download the PiF Health Literacy Report
This project was supported by an educational grant from MSD and the secondment of A K Gilbert, researcher and employee of MSD