Health Literacy: a fundamental element for generating equitable patient health outcomes

Richard Osborne
Professor and Chair in Public Health
School of Health & Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
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The concepts of health literacy (competencies to understand, find and use health information) have been poorly conceptualised and measured
Recent international innovations in how health literacy is being operationalized and measured are providing new insights into patient needs and the interventions that are required to meet these needs
To ensure utility and equity, digital technologies must consider health literacy along the entire product development and carepathway - from conceptualisation to implementation and evaluation

The concept of health literacy has entered a wide range of health policies in many countries. Health literacy is broadly defined as a person’s ability to seek, understand and use health information. Although it has come to be regarded as a determinant of health and health inequalities, its measurement has been poorly executed. Also, there have been few attempts to develop systematic ways to understand and improve how individual practitioners and organisations respond to people with low health literacy, and thus improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.

Over the past eight years researchers at Deakin and Monash University in Australia have been collaborating with local and international partners to develop and test a new person-centred measure of health literacy, the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ). The measure has been found to be highly relevant to clinicians, researchers and policymakers. It will be central to the development of an Australian Health Literacy Response Framework, a large project funded by the Australian Research Council, Victorian Government Department of Health, and Deakin University.

This presentation will provide an overview of health literacy, how it is measured, current major European initiatives, and it will describe the ways in which the new framework can inform the development of new programs, evaluate the quality and impact of current interventions, and be used to improve health equity and health outcomes.