Helping patients understand their health issues better

Around 40% of Irish people have limited health literacy — difficulty understanding and acting on health information, such as medication labels and instructions — according to the European Health Literacy Study.

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a not-for-profit organisation that has worked on health literacy for over a decade in Ireland. In 2014 we identified the critical role pharmacies and general practices play in helping patients understand their health issues and stay healthy. NALA and MSD, along with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), developed the Crystal Clear programme. It recognises pharmacies and general practices that deliver a health literacy-friendly service to their patients by awarding them a health literacy quality mark. It is free to apply and given for a two-year period.

A pharmacy or general practice can apply for the mark online at by completing an online audit. We developed nine standards and related questions on four areas: policies and procedures; communications; staff awareness; and how you evaluate and continually improve your service. Applicants will need to supply evidence such as photographs of clear signage, examples of clearly written letters or notices and ways that staff communicate effectively with customers in a literacy friendly way.

Those who pass the audit will get the Crystal Clear mark. NALA will send them a door sticker and certificate which they display in their pharmacy or general practice. We will also support them to promote their achievement in the local media. If applicants do not pass the audit, we will send them a list of actions that they can follow to help them reach the standards.

To date we have 41 pharmacies and two general practices that have achieved the mark.

There was positive feedback from some pharmacies that patients notice the Crystal Clear mark and appreciate the extra lengths those pharmacies go to help them understand their health and medicines.

Those interested in finding out more about this programme can contact me via email.

Helen Ryan

Policy officer

National Adult Literacy Agency


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Helping patients understand their health issues better;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201553

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