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Sunayana Shah, FRPharmS, United Kingdom

Congratulations do Portuguese Health Literacy Society

Health literacy is the foundation of patient safety. The ability to access, understand, and have the ability to act on the information to improve one’s health cannot be taken for granted. Limited health literacy may lead to billions of euros in avoidable national health care costs and affect people’s lives. A low level of health literacy can impact a patient’s ability to manage their own long term health conditions, adhere to the correct dosing routine, make informed healthy lifestyle choices and fully engage in prevention of disease programmes.  Because of the inability to act at the right time, there could be a delay in diagnosis, or understanding when to consult a healthcare professional earlier if symptoms persist, which in turn will affect the health outcomes for patients and preventable mortality.

Understanding of the  medical condition, adherence to HCP instructions, self-management skills, health status, and greater mortality risk are all interlinked. If the patient and health care professional cannot fill out a proper medical history due to ineffective communication, or if the patient does not understand the instructions on how to use a medicinal product or a device then this will lead to poor patient outcomes. If, for example, disease prevention programmes are not fully explained to address unmet self-care needs of the patients and consumers or adjustment of lifestyle needs, then this in turn will impact the overall management of the condition. Risk of medication errors  on patient safety can be significant if they do not follow to the instructions written on the pack or as instructed by the healthcare professionals.

Whether one is a patient, consumer, healthcare professional, care giver, government body, policy maker, regulator or industry, we all have a role to play in being stakeholders in health & well-being and prevention of disease. 

Healthcare professionals (HCPs) can go through the instructions, , on prescribed or over the counter medicines with patients and consumers to explain clearly and concisely – taking care to avoid complicated use of scientific words that may cause confusion and affect compliance of dosing regimen. The goal is a two-way partnership with patients/consumers, making every contact count with HCPs engaging in conversations that support patients/consumers in making positive changes towards better health and wellbeing and prevention of disease.

Learnings from the recent pandemic can be applied to each and every one of us. A tectonic shift has occurred around clear and transparent patient centred healthcare communication, explaining the importance of vaccination, healthier lifestyle advice (including nutritional needs, importance of exercise and mental well-being) helping patients and consumers to make an informed choice.

Post pandemic, through closer partnerships with patients/consumers and other key stakeholders, HCPs can promote wellness more effectively, improve disease management through use of innovative technology, improve health at a population level through effective communication. HCPs can play their part in increasing global health literacy which will lead to a healthier world.


Sunayana Shah is an expert in regulatory, scientific, medical, pharmacovigilance policy, and global health issues. Based in London, she has extensive experience in complex stakeholder management, policy analysis, and communication, particularly in complex technical-scientific areas.  Sunayana has led  Shawview Consulting’s development of the Cell and Gene Therapy Toolkit for the International Alliance of Patient Organizations and IFPMA released in 2020. Sunayana was previously Head of Regulatory and Safety Policy at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and previously led scientific and medical affairs at the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) leading on national and international OTC policy, regulatory issues and professional training programs.  She has also been Senior Staff editor of the British National Formulary, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and has extensive community pharmacy experience. Sunayana is Chair of the Industrial Pharmacy Advisory Group at Royal Pharmaceutical Society. She is a GPhC registered pharmacist and a Fellow and Ambassador of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Sunayana’s LinkedIn profile can be found here

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