On Monday 13 May, around 40 people from a range of local organisations, came together for a breakfast-time discussion session on 'Wake up to wellbeing and health literacy'.  The session was hosted by Councillor Veronica Dunn, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, Newcastle City Council.


    The AMA (2011) states that health literacy can be a stronger predictor of health status than age, income, employment status, education level, race or ethnic group.  A recent EU study estimated that nearly 1 in 2 Europeans have inadequate and problematic health literacy skills.

    As a member of the WHO European Healthy City Movement, we've been keeping an eye on developments around health literacy and have recently been part of conversations to suggest broadening the concept to 'wellbeing and health literacy'.  In the draft Wellbeing for Life Strategy we have adapted a WHO working explanation to describe this as:

    a person's awareness, knowledge and capacity to absorb information in order to take positive action relating to their wellbeing and health, including understanding their rights, what helps or hinders their wellbeing and health, being able to navigate and access the services and support they need, and, being active participants in taking steps to improve their lives

    In short wellbeing and health literacy is an asset for individuals, communities and potentially the city as a whole.

    Understanding wellbeing and health literacy as a concept and thinking about the wellbeing and health literacy of local people isn't just about specific 'educational' interventions.  It can help in:

    • thinking about how communities can be a good place for wellbeing and health literacy to develop
    • thinking about how we help people to make healthy choices
    • making services easier to navigate - so people can find the right service when they need it
    • attracting people to take up opportunities for immunisations, screening and support
    • supporting people to manage their own medications and their own condition
    • improving workplace health
    • designing information materials or campaigns
    • giving information or advice on a one to one basis
    • understanding staff training needs
    • Presentations

      We were delighted to welcome guest speakers Dr Gill Rowlands, London based General Practitioner, Senior Lecturer at Kings College London and Chair of the UK Health Literacy Group and Dr Joanne Protheroe, Manchester based General Practitioner, Senior Lecturer at Keele University and Chair-Elect of UK Health Literacy Group.  Their presentation highlighed the importance of health literacy and the results of their recent research.

      Helen Wilding, Wellbeing for life development lead, then gave a quick overview of recent developments being led by World Health Organisation European Healthy City Network and some examples of how health literacy ideas have been used in other cities.

      Table discussions

      Participants discussed the concept of wellbeing and health literacy in small groups and considered how it can be used to support the delivery of the Wellbeing for Life Strategy.  Participants ended by making personal pledges for the next steps they would individually take.