Health literacy is the extent to which consumers can obtain, process, and understand information about health care, services and the health system
Health literacy describes the ability of a person to understand information about health and health care to make informed decisions about their own care.
Health literacy is important because it shapes people’s health and the safety and quality of health care.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) separates health literacy in two components:
Skills, knowledge, motivation and capacity of a person to:
Infrastructure, policies, processes, materials and people and relationships that make up the health system
People with low literacy may not have the knowledge required to find, understand and use information about their health and health care.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care developed supportive resources on health literacy that provides more tailored information through Fact and Summary Sheets and Infographics about improving health literacy to clinicians, consumers and health service executives and managers.
Everyone can play a part in addressing health literacy.
A number of tools have been developed for consumers and carers to be informed and to help to communicate with the health care team, and are listed below:
The Make the most of your time with your doctor tool helps you to prepare for a visit to the doctor. The tool enables you to build a list of questions you would like to ask your doctor, and consider questions the doctor might ask. The questions can be printed or emailed to a phone/device for during the appointment.
The question builder (tool) is designed to be used with general practitioners and specialists. It encourages people to ask questions that matter most to them, participate in the appointment and share decisions with the doctor about your own care.
The Top tips for safe Health Care (PDF 548KB) is designed to help consumers, their families, carers and other support people get the most of their health care.
You can use the information in the booklet to talk to your doctor and other healthcare providers, including nurses, pharmacists, specialists, allied health and mental health workers.
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.
To address health literacy in a coordinated way in Australia, it is necessary to:
Safety and Quality Unit
Telephone: 8226 2567