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Health literacy classification

Nutbeam’s (2000) three levels of health literacy: functional, interactive and critical are discussed.
Library with many floors and books
© Gabriel Sollmann on Unsplash CC0
In relation to the health professionals’ skills and abilities you may have identified their need to enable Ms Jones to share information about the nature of the mole and its development over time.

These skills and abilities are examples of two of three levels of health literacy that comprise Don Nutbeam’s (2000) classification of health literacy. This classification is a typology of 3 levels of health literacy that recognises the role of basic reading, writing and numeracy for health, but moves beyond this to include interactive and critical abilities. These are labelled and described as:

Functional health literacy: which are the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy necessary to function effectively in a health context.
Interactive health literacy: which refers to more advanced cognitive literacy skills that with social skills, can be used to actively participate in everyday situations, extract information and derive meaning from different forms of communication, and apply this to changing circumstances.
Critical health literacy: is the ability to critically analyse information and use this to exert greater control over life events and situations.

Revisit your list of skills and abilities identified in Ms Jones’s journey in the previous step and match these against the level of health literacy in Nutbeam’s classification.


Nutbeam, D. (2000) Health literacy as a public health goal: a challenge for contemporary health education and communication strategies into the 21st century. Health Promotion International, 15(3):, 259–267.

© IMPACCT consortium
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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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