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Regional Health Literacy Team

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is about people being able to understand health information. It’s about us making it easier for them to do this. It’s talking to patients using everyday words. It’s writing to them in a way that’s clear. This helps our patients make informed choices about their health.

Why is it important?

It is important that health information is written in a way that can be understood so that people can make informed choices about their health. The average reading age of adults in the UK is 9-11 years old. Half of adults find it hard to understand health information. So they struggle to use it to help their health and wellbeing. This creates health inequalities.

People with low health literacy:

  • are more likely to die younger
  • are more likely to have long-term conditions
  • miss appointments more often
  • find it hard to take medication correctly
  • feel worried and angry
  • struggle to look after their own health effectively


What can we do about it?

We can all share clearer health information. We can all speak and write in ways that make it easier for our patients to understand.

We can write in a clear way, at the average UK reading age. We can use as little medical jargon as possible. We can talk about health using everyday words.

We can check with patients if we’ve explained clearly before they go home. The regional health literacy team is here to help with this.

Our work

Our goal is to make sure that the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (NENC ICS) communicates information to all people in a way that is easy for them to understand.

Click here to see a copy of the work plan for the regional health literacy team.

Click here to see the PowerPoint video of our work plan.

  • We have chosen a number of patient pathways (journeys) that will be reviewed from a health literacy point of view. We will make improvements so that the pathway is health literate and check if the changes have made a positive difference. Changes will include looking at written materials and re-writing them so they are understandable and training for staff involved in the pathway. We have started work on the following pathways:
    • North of Tyne Bowel Screening Programme
    • Alcohol – Fibroscan pathway in County Durham Drug and Alcohol Services. A fibroscan is a type of scan that can measure the stiffness of your liver.
    • South Tees Maternity pathway
    • Medicines optimisation – Valproate pathway
    • Local Authority pathway – currently being identified.
  • We are working on a health literacy toolkit for the North East and North Cumbria ICS. There are already some helpful resources on this webpage.
  • We are working on a health literacy pledge that organisations can sign up to. We will develop standards (things organisations can put in place) which shows that they are a health literate organisation.
  • We are developing a programme of health literacy training. Click on the training section for more information.

Meet the team

Find us: We are based at South Tyneside District Hospital but cover the whole of the North East and North Cumbria Region.

Contact us: stsft.nenchealthliteracy@nhs.net

Emma Davidson

Strategic manager


Lorna Dawson

Health Literacy Specialist / Health Literacy Officer


Ryan Swiers

Consultant in Public Health / Health Literacy Lead


Alice Gray

Health Equity Coordinator


Kia Thomas

Health Information Assistant Editor

Alex Leigh

Health Information Assistant Editor

Leanne Kirkup

Health Literacy Trainer


Tracy Garbarino

Health Literacy Trainer

Health Literacy Training

We are busy developing a programme of health literacy training. We are creating different levels of training that will help you to understand health literacy and how to use it in your work.

The following training will be available:

  • Awareness level training
  • Skills level training
  • Master level training

If you are interested in health literacy training for your team, please email the regional health literacy team at stsft.nenchealthliteracy@nhs.net

In the meantime, the courses below may be helpful for you. Click on the links to access the training.

Health literacy – e-learning for healthcare

Future Learn Course


Here you can find some writing advice. The links below give useful advice on writing in a simple way.

Type or copy and paste your writing into this webpage. It will suggest how to make it clearer. For example, it will highlight sentences that are too long, written in the passive voice, or words people might find hard.

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