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Some other predictors of limited health literacy

Other predictors of limited health literacy than "red flags"healthcare providers can use are introduced.
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As well as these so called ‘red flag’ indicators, we can also add inferences from what we know about health literacy from Week 1 and the work by Sorenson et al (2015) from the European Health Literacy survey, who identified that there is a social gradient and inequalities in the lives of those with limited health literacy with a higher proportion of people with limited health literacy in subgroups within the European population.

Do you remember which population subgroups? Indeed, those with:

  • financial deprivation
  • lower social status
  • lower educational attainment
  • old age

But remember these are only potential indicators – for example, in relation to the “red flags”, some people do just forget their appointments. Also, anyone can be nervous in unfamiliar surroundings, especially in a new healthcare context which can impact on people’s ability to take in what they are being told. This is another aspect of health literacy – the health literacy abilities and skills of people are influenced by the situation and context and change over time, they are not static.

In other words, you can get some quick insight on the level of health literacy of patients using these indicators for what they are, a guide. You shouldn’t make assumptions just based on these. This will be the purpose of the next exercise.

Better ways of assessing health literacy in patients will be addressed in the following steps.


Sørensen, K., Pelikan, J. M., Röthlin, F., Ganahl, K., Slonska, Z., Doyle, G., … & Falcon, M. (2015). Health literacy in Europe: comparative results of the European health literacy survey (HLS-EU). European journal of public health, 25(6), 1053-1058.

© IMPACCT consortium
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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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