talkhealth meets... Beth Cooper

One thing that can really upend confidence in your health is a visit to A&E. Whether it’s a nasty fall or an allergic reaction, being in the emergency room can feel like you’re back to square one with your chronic condition. That's why we are very excited for Beth Cooper, A&E nurse and health literacy advocate, to join our panel of experts.

Before her webinar, which is set to teach you all about improving your health knowledge and management techniques, we asked Beth some questions. Read on to learn why health literacy is so important and what the skill really is...


What is health literacy?

Personal health literacy is the degree to which we have the ability to find, understand, and use information to inform our health-related decisions. It is more focused on how people use information instead of how they understand it. Improving people’s health literacy allows them to take more ownership of their health needs.

Why are you so dedicated to improving health literacy?

As a qualified nurse, I have met many patients from all walks of life, and I’m always surprised how little lots of people actually know about their own health. That’s why it’s important, where possible, for people to work collaboratively with their healthcare providers to ensure they are engaged and informed about their health and the management of it.

What are some easy ways to start increasing health knowledge at home?

There are many ways that people can begin to improve engagement and understanding of their own conditions and health, here’s some:

  • Utilise and engage with online services.
  • Take time to research individual conditions.
  • Keep a journal of questions to ask your doctor or nurse during appointments. This can greatly influence retention of information and understanding.
  • Keep a clear document for appointments, medications, and symptom tracking.
  • Utilise health apps to track activity and health data in order to influence healthier lifestyle choices. 

Why is it even more important for people with chronic conditions to have good health literacy?

Whether it’s understanding prescription drugs, making sense of consent forms or really getting to grips with your doctor’s directions, people with chronic conditions have to navigate a complex healthcare system. There is lots of research to show that improved health literacy and self-management of conditions results in better clinical outcomes for numerous different chronic conditions.

How does improving health literacy prevent illness?

Many illnesses cannot be prevented by simply being health literate but having a keener understanding of the importance of health can influence an individual’s likelihood to choose a healthier lifestyle. It also enables them to know how and when to seek medical care and take advantage of preventive measures which reduce the risk of long-term ill health.

Do you think that patients have more responsibility for their own health literacy these days?

There are lots of reasons why people are more aware and more responsible for their health literacy these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has made health related information paramount. For the past few years, people have had no choice but to recognise and respond to health related information relayed by their governments.  

Digital health resources have given people more access to health resources and information and millennials seem to have a growing concern over the burden of health. As a result, they are utilising health applications and hand held devices to track this. 

That said, the responsibility for health literacy is still very multidimensional. The government has a responsibility to promote health, as do health organisations, local authorities, charities, businesses, educators, community leaders, clinicians, employers, researchers, the media, and even the food and drink industry.

What are some great apps/websites for upping health knowledge?

The World Health Organisation’s website is great for up to date news and resources around health and medicine. So is the NHS website, which is a brilliant resource for improving your understanding of specific conditions via information that is easy to understand.

You campaign for better health education in schools, why is this important and what needs to be done?

I have always believed that health education should be covered in depth in a dedicated lesson, rather than being scattered across a variety of subjects. Research suggests that students who participate in health education as part of their school curriculum have improved health related knowledge and attitudes, health literacy and skills, and it has a positive impact on health promoting behaviours. 

Will improving health literacy improve NHS services? How/why?

Research shows that increased patient involvement results in lower rates of hospitalisation, better quality of life, more healthy behaviours and lower cost implications relating to health. These are all things that improve the services provided in the NHS. Improved health literacy also results in lower rates of  anxiety, pain, psychological distress and mortality, which directly affect the healthcare system. 

If you want to learn more about your condition, you should visit our hubs page where you will be able to find the resources to suit you. 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 25 April 2022
Next review: 25 April 2025