Research shines light on importance of health literacy

Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK) has published new research into how pharmacists determine their patients' health literacy. It was conducted by Paul Duell at the University of East Anglia. 

Health literacy is a person’s ability to obtain, understand and apply health information and it has been shown that patients that have limited health literacy have poorer health and are more likely to die early, says PRUK.  

Previous research had shown that there are seven patient behaviours that could predict their level of health literacy. The recent project aimed to test pharmacists’ ability to assess each of these behaviours during a medicine consultation and see if any were an accurate way of measuring health literacy.  

The research showed that six out of the seven behaviours were associated with health literacy level; and the recall of written information was the most accurate predictor of health literacy. However, the pharmacists involved with the study generally felt that a patient’s recall of verbal information was the easiest to assess as part of a consultation.

Moreover, the pharmacists displayed a varied ability to predict a patient’s health literacy based on the consultations and further research is now needed to standardise the way in which pharmacists predict health literacy using the six identified health behaviours.

Paul Duell commented: “It is important for pharmacists to be able to assess a patient’s health literacy so that they can provide them with appropriate information and support. 

"This research shows that pharmacists differ in their ability to assess health literacy and therefore the need for a standardised approach to assessing patients.”

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