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Educ Prim Care. 2017 Sep;28(5):274-281. doi: 10.1080/14739879.2017.1327332. Epub 2017 May 19.

The health literacy dyad: the contribution of future GPs in England.

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a School of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University , London , UK.
b Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University , Newcastle upon Tyne , UK.
c Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health , Boston , MA , USA.



Health literacy studies have primarily focused on the cognitive and social skills of individuals needed to gain access to, understand, and use health information. This area of study is undergoing a paradigm shift with increased attention being paid to the skills of practitioners and an examination of their contribution to the link between literacy and health outcomes. The aim of this study was to describe the health literacy related competencies of General Practice (GP) trainees who will soon be responsible for the clinical encounter.


A cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of 206 GP trainees was conducted online. Univariate and bivariate analysis methods were used to describe GP trainees' health literacy-related competencies.


GP trainees overestimated the numeracy and literacy levels of the English population and did not regard the improvement of patient health literacy as a GP responsibility. GP trainees rated their general communication skills highly but the skills that are important for patients in health decision-making such as coaching skills, explaining risk and using visual aids to clarify were rated low.


This study demonstrates that health literacy is insufficiently addressed in the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education of GPs to enable them to fulfil the core competence which is part of building an effective partnership with patients.


Health literacy; general practitioner; medical education

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