Creating an organisational response

Safe, patient-centred, and equitable care can only be achieved if people can access the services they need and make informed decisions

This thinking has led to the emergence of the concept of health literate organisations that make it easier for people to navigate, understand and use information and services to take care of their health.  

The diagram below on page 6 of Batterham et al. BMC Public Health 2014, 14:694 sets out the filters that determine a person’s participation and inclusion in healthcare.  It shows how problems are generally characterized, and some of the underlying health literacy and other challenges.  Understanding the different filters in this way can enable a more effective response.

A number of attributes and associated activities of health literate organisations have been identified:

Taken from: Attributes of a Health Literate Organization, Brach C, Dreyer B, Schyve P, Harnandez LM, Baur C, Lemerise AJ and Parker P (2012).  

Health Literacy: the solid facts published by the World Health Organization describes the actions organisations can take to become health literacy-friendly.  There are also some tools available to support services and organisations to respond to the health literacy needs of their local population.  Examples of these include:

  • The Ophelia process (OPtimising Health LIterAcy) is designed to use health literacy profiling and community engagement to create a framework to respond to the health literacy needs of a local population.
  • The Primary Care Health Literacy Assessment  is designed to help primary care practices assess how well they are responding to the health literacy needs of their population, but it is readily transferrable to other health settings.  This is free to download from the internet
  • The Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit is designed to be used following the Primary Care Health Literacy Assessment to support teams to develop and implement a health literacy plan.

The World Health Organisation has recommended the following to improve the health literacy environment in health care facilities:

Taken from: Health Literacy: the solid facts published by the World Health Organization

Health literacy in communications materials

Whilst health information should not be seen as the main solution to health literacy challenges, it is an example of an area where services can adjust their practice to improve the accessibility and appropriateness of what they do.  Good health information, however it is provided (face-to-face, on-line, in a leaflet etc.), should help people to understand their care and make confident, informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.  

The Information Standard provides a robust process and certification to ensure that health and care information produced for the public is clear, accurate, balanced, evidence-based and up-to-date. 

Some examples of changes services can make are:

  • Sharing jargon-free copies of clinic and discharge correspondence, which use language that the person can understand
  • Providing test results in meaningful and accessible formats

The Patient Information Forum is a membership organization for people producing health information for patients or the public and provides a range of support. 

The World Health Organisation has developed the following advice on improving health information:

Taken from : Health Literacy: the solid facts published by the World Health Organization

All resources on health literacy