Two doctoral research projects, one based at the University of Dundee, and one at McMaster University, Canada.

The first (Phyllis Easton’s PhD) confirmed that a hidden population of adults with low literacy has a worse average health status than can be accounted for by other demographic or socio-economic variables. It then showed how the social stigma attached to low literacy can impede effective communication with health professionals and contribute, both directly and indirectly, to poor health. 

The second (Leslie Malloy-Weir’s PhD) critiqued the various definitions of health literacy that have been used in academic literature and highlighted the diverse ways in which aspects of health literacy can support and be supported by shared decision-making processes in health care.


Vikki Entwistle;




Malloy-Weir L, Charles C, Gafni A, Entwistle V. A review of health literacy:  definitions, interpretations, and implications for research, policy, and practice

Journal of Public Health Policy, 2016, 37 (3): 334-352. Doi: 10.1057/jphp.2016.18

Malloy-Weir L, Charles C, Gafni A, Entwistle V. Empirical relationships between health literacy and treatment decision-making: a scoping review of the literature.

Patient Education and Counseling 2015; 98(3): 296-309. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2014.11.004

Easton P, Entwistle VA, Williams B. How the stigma of low literacy can impair patient-professional interactions and affect health: insights from a qualitative investigation.

BMC Health Services Research, 2013,13:319. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6963-13-319.

Easton P, Entwistle V, Williams B. Health in the ‘hidden population’ of people with low literacy: a systematic review of the literatureBMC Public Health, 2010, 10:459. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-459.