Health literacy

Health literacy DVD by NALA


What is health literacy and numeracy?

Health literacy and numeracy has two elements:

1. Health services communicate clearly and take account of possible health literacy and numeracy needs. 

2. People understand health information correctly and can make an informed decision. 

For more information on health literacy see NALA's factsheet here.


Health Literacy Policy in Ireland

In 2013 the Department of Health published their new policy – ‘Healthy Ireland - A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 – 2025’. The policy recommends action to ‘address and prioritise health literacy in developing future policy, educational and information interventions’ by a number of partners (Reference 3.8, page 25). The partners named include the Department of Health, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Education and Skills, HSE Directorates, statutory agencies, Community and Voluntary bodies and the private sector.

NALA welcomes this commitment to health literacy by the Department of Health and Government. We are working closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and other stakeholders in the health sector to progress this area.



Current NALA health literacy work


Crystal Clear Pharmacy and General Practice Programme 2017

In 2015 we launched the Crystal Clear Pharmacy and General Practice Programme - - Ireland’s first health literacy quality mark for pharmacies and general practices. It was developed by NALA, MSD and the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and is supported by Healthy Ireland. The programme was developed to recognise the critical role pharmacies and general practices play in helping patients understand their health issues and take the practical steps to improve their health.

To get the Crystal Clear Mark, they fill in an online audit of nine questions along with examples and evidence. If they are successful, they are awarded a Crystal Clear Mark – this is a door sticker and certificate which they display in their premises. It is free to apply for the mark and is awarded for two years. To date (June 2017) we have 59 pharmacies and four general practices with the award.



Working with hospitals to become literacy friendly

NALA has identified 18 literacy friendly quality standards for hospital settings. Many of the 18 standards complement HIQA’s National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare (in particular theme one: Person-Centred Care and Support) and the Mental Health Commission’s Quality Framework for Mental Health Services in Ireland.

NALA is currently working with two hospitals on these standards to help them become a literacy-friendly hospital.

1. St Patrick’s Mental Health services are doing a literacy audit with NALA to identify which standards they are meeting and actions (if necessary) to meet the remaining standards.

2. University Hospital Limerick (UHL) Group did a literacy audit on one department in the hospital. NALA facilitated a workshop in July 2017 to look at addressing the actions identified from the audit.


Developing communication guides with HIQA

In association with HIQA, we developed and published two guidance documents for health and social care providers on communicating in plain English when working with adults and with children. We also worked with HIQA on an educational video which explains health literacy and health literacy friendly practice to health care providers. This is available on HIQA’s YouTube channel at