- The health literacy environment is the setting where people seek health information and use health services.
- Health services are responsible for improving the health literacy environment.
- Health literate settings make it easier for consumers to access services and get, understand and act on health information.
The health literacy environment describes the setting in which people seek health information and use health services. It includes[i][ii] :
- the way staff speak with consumers and carers – clinical, support and administrative staff
- the buildings where the care is delivered – is the design and layout accessible and appropriate for all users?
- signage and maps – does the size, colour, format and location meet the needs of all users?
- forms – are they plain English and easy to use, are they available in other languages?
- the service’s website – how user friendly and informative it is
- internal policies and processes – do they consider the impact on consumers?
- the information provided – is it clear and easy for consumers to understand?
The environment affects individual health literacy
The health literacy of individuals is the result of the interaction between their skills and attributes, and the health care environment.
The National Statement on Health Literacy makes it clear that health services are responsible for environmental health literacy. It is a key feature of safe and high quality health care, helps reduce health disparities and increases equity [iii].
Health-literate settings and services actively reduce the demands placed on consumers and integrate action to strengthening health literacy as part of their core business through their policies, procedures and practices.
Health services and staff can influence the settings in which consumers and carers access health care and information. You can explore the key attributes of health literate services, find out how to assess the health literacy of your organisation and find tools to help you improve the health literacy of your service in this section of the website.
[i] Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Health Care, ‘Health Literacy National Statement | Safety and Quality’, https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications/health-literacy-national-statement/, (Accessed 22 March 2017)
[ii] Health Care Consumers’ Association. “Health Literacy Position Statement”. 2017. Available from: http://www.hcca.org.au/component/rsfiles/download.html?path=Health%2BLiteracy%2BPosition%2BStatement%252FHealth%2Bliteracy%2Bposition%2Bstatement%2BFINAL.pdf (Accessed Oct 30 2017)
[iii] Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Health Care, ‘Health Literacy National Statement | Safety and Quality’, https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications/health-literacy-national-statement/, (Accessed 22 March 2017)