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Health literacy

GPs highlight problem of poor health literacy in England

Large proportion of adults have difficulty understanding medicines information.


Woman with pills and prescription

Source: Diego Vito Cervo /


Almost half of adults in England cannot adequately understand health information, according to a new report published by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

The report highlights unpublished research led by Gill Rowlands at King’s College London, which suggests that 43% of working-age adults cannot fully understand and use written health information, and 61% of working-age adults cannot use such information when numbers are involved.

The report is based on an RCGP-led workshop on health literacy held in July 2013. The RCGP warns that poor health literacy can mean patients do not know how to take their medicines safely and effectively, which can lead to worsening physical and mental health. New initiatives should target those people with the worst health literacy, it recommends. 

The workshop was sponsored by NHS England.



Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065559

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