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 is important because it shapes peoples health and the safety and quality of health care. Low levels of individual health literacy contribute to poorer health outcomes, increased risk of an adverse event and higher healthcare costs.
In August 2014 Australian, state and territory Health Ministers endorsed the Commission’s National Statement on Health Literacy as Australia’s national approach to addressing health literacy.
In the National Statement, the Commission proposes a coordinated approach to health literacy based on:
The National Statement is supported by a background paper that provides an overview of health literacy in Australia and discusses strategies and actions required to address health literacy in a coordinated way.
Everyone can play a part in addressing health literacy. For example:
In 2012 the Commission undertook a stocktake of health literacy activities across Australia. This exercise gave an insight into the breadth of work that was being undertaken, however it became clear that the work was often unconnected and uncoordinated.
In 2013, the Commission drafted a background paper on health literacy and undertook an extensive consultation process on the topic. The Commission received over 100 submissions on the topic. A consultation report was prepared describing key issues and themes identified in the submissions.
The final version of the paper entitled, Health Literacy: Taking action for Safety and Quality was released in August 2014.
Accompanying this, the Commission has prepared a National Statement on Health Literacy which was endorsed by Health Ministers as the national approach to health literacy.
A range of tools are available to help you improve health literacy in your organisation
Information and resources are available to support you to be an active partner in your own care