Investing in health literacy




What do we know about the co-benefits to the education sector of actions targeted at children and young people?

Nearly half the European population are thought to have difficulties identifying, understanding and using health information. This has real and negative health consequences. Tackling and improving health literacy is a route to improving the population’s health. Health literacy skills are best developed early in life, which makes the education sector, rather than the health sector, an important player, but it is not always easy to secure investment across sectors or to persuade the education sector to engage.

There is however sound evidence that investing in health literacy in schools helps with outcomes beyond health. Some of the co-benefits identified include the possibility of better educational outcomes in school which in turn enhance career opportunities and increase the potential economic benefits for children when they reach adulthood. These co-benefits also contribute to better physical and emotional health. What is more, these effects can be passed down to future generations.

This brief synthesizes what we know about the co-benefits for the education sector of health literacy programmes, and outlines the evidence on how to secure such co-benefits. It is hoped that setting out the evidence on effectiveness and co-benefits to other sectors more clearly will increase the potential for support from outside the health sector and facilitate the implementation of health literacy programmes.