Health literacy

This page is no longer updated as of the 30th June 2016. 

Health literacy has been defined as:

The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decision

Key documents

  • World Health Organization. Health Literacy: The Solid Facts (2013). For a summary of key points for primary health care, click here.
  • Institute of Medicine: Attributes of a Health Literate Organization (2012). This short paper describes 10 attributes of a health literate organisation, that is, an organization that makes it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health.
  • Australian National Statement on Health Literacy. This statement (1) highlights the importance of health literacy in ensuring safe and high-quality care, (2) supports the need for a coordinated and collaborative approach within the health sector and across sectors to systematically address health literacy and (3) describes possible actions that can be taken by organisations and individuals working in the health sector to address health literacy.


  • Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (USA) commissioned the University of North Carolina to develop and test this Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit. The toolkit offers primary care practices a way to assess their services for health literacy considerations, raise awareness of the entire staff, and work on specific areas.
  • The American Medical Association's Health Literacy Educational Toolkit for clinicians (2nd edition)
  • The Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ)  a multi-dimensional tool to provide practitioners, organisations and governments with data describing the health literacy strengths and limitations of individuals and populations.
COMPaRE-PHC systematic review related to health literacy

Primary health care-level interventions targeting health literacy and their effect on weight loss: a systematic review (2014)

Other systematic reviews related to health literacy

Health literacy and public health: A systematic review and integration of definitions and models (2012) 

Health Literacy and Child Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review of the Literature (2009)

Low Health Literacy and Health Outcomes (2011)

Interventions for Individuals with Low Health Literacy: A Systematic Review (2011)

A systematic review of interventions in primary care to improve health literacy for chronic disease behavioral risk factors (2012)

Which providers can bridge the health literacy gap in lifestyle risk factor modification education: a systematic review and narrative synthesis (2012)