Jason Gordon

Health Literacy takes centre stage

Jason Gordon reports on findings from the recent ‘Digital Participation and Health Literacy’ seminar in Leicester.




October’s ‘Digital Participation and Health Literacy’ seminar was hosted at De Montfort University in Leicester by the UK’s Health Literacy special interest group of the Society for Academic Primary Care.

Committed to explore the impact of Health Literacy (HL) and support national policy to reduce inequalities, the group is committed to building the evidence base for HL through discussion, research and collaboration.

After an introduction by Health Literacy Chair Jo Protheroe, Jonathan Berry of NHS England shared some powerful figures highlighting the correlation between digital exclusion, wider social disadvantage and health inequalities.

12.6 million UK adults lack basic digital skills. What’s more, 5.3 million people – that’s 11% of the population – have never used the Internet. Similarly, more than 40% people of working age have problems understanding health information: a figure that rises to over 60% when numeracy is factor.

Promoting digital inclusion

With an increasing shift to digital delivery of healthcare services and information, this poses a big obstacle for millions of UK citizens whose who lack digital skills or the ability to access online resources. And it’s little surprise that those most at risk of digital exclusion are the elderly and disabled, along with people from lower income groups and reduced educational attainment.

Jonathan then shared research from a successful pilot study aiming to boost participants’ skills and confidence in accessing online health information.

Run in conjunction with the Tinder Foundation, Widening Digital Participation (WDP) has been a three-year project aimed at reducing health inequalities among older people, disabled people and those on low incomes. Reaching 387,470 people, the project has trained 221,941 individuals to improve their digital health literacy.

£6 million savings

Results of the pilot have been extremely positive. They include increased confidence and reduced loneliness for participants, coupled with more self-care and greater use of online health services.

In total, the programme has generated a reduction of 2.3 million A&E visits, together with 3.7 million fewer GP visits – representing an overall cost reduction of £6m.

On the back of this successful pilot, a second WDP has been commissioned. Running until March 2019, this follow-on project aims to embed digital inclusion more deeply into mainstream NHS practice. Stay tuned to hear more results from this ground-breaking initiative.

You can download speaker presentations from the seminar and get more details on Health Literacy activities right here.

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