Health literacy

Health literacy is about how people understand information about health and health care, and how they apply that information to their lives, use it to make decisions and act on it.

Health literacy plays an important role in enabling effective partnerships. For partnerships to work, everyone involved needs to be able to give and receive, interpret and act on information such as treatment options and plans.

Two aspects of health literacy

The Commission separates health literacy into two parts:

  • Individual health literacy is the skills, knowledge, motivation and capacity of a person to access, understand, appraise and apply information to make effective decisions about health and health care and take appropriate action.
  • Health literacy environment is the infrastructure, policies, processes, materials, people and relationships that make up the health system and have an impact on the way that people access, understand, appraise and apply health-related information and services.

Information on health literacy, how it affects safety and quality of care and where action can be taken can be found in:

Additional resources on health literacy developed by the Commission can be found on the Supportive resources page.