Health sector services

People working in the healthcare sector play an important part in helping patients understand health information.

Why is health literacy important?

Patients who are better informed about their health have more effective consultations with their health care provider, are better informed about the medicines they are prescribed, are more likely to comply with their medication and as a result have improved health outcomes.

People working in the healthcare sector play an important part in improving health literacy and numeracy by communicating more clearly and making information and services more accessible to patients.

NALA has been at the forefront of this work, making the link between literacy levels in Ireland and the impact this has on people’s health. We work closely with the Health Service Executive and other healthcare providers to progress this area through research, training and advisory services.


NALA research in 2015, shows that Irish people want healthcare professionals to use less medical jargon:

  • Two in five (39%) Irish people are calling for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to use more understandable language and less medical jargon. This was followed by speaking less formally (22%) and taking more time to explain things (18%).
  • 17% of people surveyed said they had taken the wrong amount of medication on at least one occasion.
  • People aged 15 – 34 years were least likely to ask a doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain things they don’t understand.
  • Embarrassment was ranked as the main reason for not seeking more information from a healthcare professional (24%).

Read research
Heath Literacy with NALA

Tips for healthcare providers

Delivering a literacy friendly health service means you provide a quality service where the person fully understands their condition and what they need to do. Here are some tips to help.

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Person looking at medicine label
Plain English Training


Starting with those working in the health sector, our training is about helping staff to reflect on how they communicate with their patients and checking its effectiveness. Here the point is not to assume just because you tell the person the information your responsibility is over. Have you been clear and explained any medical terminology?  Has the patient been asked to give you their understanding of what they have heard? Simple techniques have been developed and simple changes to how we communicate can make a huge difference.

Contact us today at or take our eLearning Health Literacy course developed with Irish Cancer Society and funded by MSD Ireland.

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NALA and the Health Service Executive (HSE) produced a Literacy Audit for Healthcare Settings resource to address the issue of accessible and literacy friendly healthcare settings. It is designed to help healthcare workers understand the literacy demands of their environment and offers guidance to make it more accessible. Informed by best practice in the area of health communication this practical resource can be used by anyone dealing with the public in any healthcare setting. The resource contains a Toolkit for literacy friendly communication in healthcare settings and an Audit tool to assess healthcare settings and identify areas for improvement.

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Health Literacy Sector Audit
Health Literacy Sector consultancy and advice

Specialist advice

NALA has worked with staff in clinics, pharmacies and hospitals and organisations like the HSE and HIQA to develop literacy friendly quality standards for the health sector. We have also developed and published guidance documents for health and social care providers on communicating in plain English when working with adults and with children.


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