Understanding communication of health information: a lesson in health literacy for junior medical and physiotherapy students

Communicating health information is a core skill required of all health care professionals. However, the ability of the recipient to understand the information provided – health literacy – is critical (Baker, 2006), yet receives relatively less attention in health professional teaching and training. The most commonly used method of communicating health information to patients and the general public is through use of patient information leaflets (PILs) (Pander Maat and Lentz, 2010). It is vital that these are designed in an optimal manner, taking at least three key principles into account:

1.They should have a low reading age, ensuring that the average reader can read and comprehend PIL content (Williamson and Martin, 2010). 2.PILs should utilise theories of health behaviour to maximise their motivational effects and provide practical assistance to the reader to adhere to the PIL’s recommendations (e.g. Armitage and Conner, 2000). 3.They should be accurate, contain enough detail, and not be biased by companies who sponsor the information (Charnock et al., 1999).