Inadequate health literacy is a public health challenge: according to the European Health Literacy Survey, 47.6% of the adult population in 8 countries of WHO European Region have poor or inadequate levels of health literacy. Advancement in policy actions and interventions on health literacy in the Region have been slow.
Health literacy must be recognized as a key element of public health policies that are effective in promoting health through the life course, improving the effectiveness of health systems, and endorsing equity in health outcomes.
The challenge facing policy-makers lies in addressing key risk factors within, across and outside the health sector. Policies must encourage the implementation of effective actions through cross-sectoral collaboration by emphasizing the shared benefits of investing in health literacy.
Resources for action
These practical outlines and tools can assist policy-makers from all government sectors in integrating health literacy within the political agenda.
What is the evidence on existing policies and linked activities and their effectiveness for improving health literacy at national, regional and organizational levels in the WHO European Region?
Health Evidence Networks Synthesis Report 57, 2018
Health literacy: towards system level solutions
The BMJ, 24 February 2015
Accelerating the health literacy agenda in Europe
Health Promotion International, Volume 32, Issue 6, December 2017, Pages 1074–1080
A rapid evidence review of interventions for improving health literacy
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, May 2012
Health literacy for people-centred care: Where do the OECD countries stand?
OECD Health Working Papers No. 107, 12 December 2018
IUHPE Position Statement on Health Literacy: a practical vision for a health literate world
IUHPE – Global Health Promotion, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2018
Global Health Promotion: Special issue on health literacy
Global Health Promotion, Volume 25, Issue 4, December 2018
European Commission eHealth Task Force Report
European Commission, June 2012
Key documents developed by WHO/Europe highlight how health literacy has been central to all aspects of public health.
Migration and health
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
Austrian health care reform: An opportunity to implement health promotion into primary health care units
Public Health Panorama, Volume 4, Issue 4, December 2018
Facts and figures
Health Literacy in Europe: comparative results of the European health literacy survey
European Journal of Public Health (2015), Vol 25, No. 6, 1053–1058
Health literacy and public health: A systematic review and integration of definitions and models
BMC Public Health, 5 January 2012