What is health literacy?

Latest research results have shown that the majority of the population are facing many problems by dealing with health-related information and decisions in their daily life [1].

Due to the complexity of the healthcare system and a large amount of health and disease information, patients are quickly overwhelmed. Further, the increase in decision-making options for patients leads to the difficulty in dealing with health-related challenges in everyday life on their own. The competence, knowledge, and motivation to find health-relevant and reliable information, to understand it, and to apply it for your own individual health decisions are summarized under the term health literacy [2].

[1] Schaeffer, D., Vogt, D., Berens, E. M., & Hurrelmann, K. (2017). Gesundheitskompetenz der Bevölkerung in Deutschland: Ergebnisbericht. Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld, S. 40.

[2] Sørensen, K., Van den Broucke, S., Fullam, J., Doyle, G., Pelikan, J. M., Slonska, Z., Brand, H. (2012). Health literacy and public health: A systematic review and integration of definitions and models. BMC Public Health, 12, 80.

Why is health literacy so important (for us)?

Related to recent research in health literacy, it turns out that higher health literacy is associated with better health. Improving Health Literacy contributes to better health care, reduces health and social inequality, and promotes active participation in health-related decisions.

Strengthening and promoting health skills is a task for society as a whole with the participation of various actors and disciplines.

National health literacy action plan

To sustainably strengthen health literacy in Germany, a comprehensive, nationwide strategy was adopted for the first time in February 2018 as part of the "National Action Plan for Health Literacy". This illustrates the high political importance and the need for a systematic approach to promoting health literacy in Germany. The countrywide program identifies four main areas of action: 

  • to expand research,
  • to live health literacy with chronic illness,
  • to promote health literacy in all areas of life,
  • to make the health system user-friendly.

The commitment and cooperation of various actors and institutions in different areas, such as politics, education, research, health care are necessary regard to the aim of increasing the intelligibility of health information and reducing social and health inequalities.


Source: Schaeffer, D., Hurrelmann, K., Bauer, U., & Kolpatzik, K. (2018). Nationaler Aktionsplan Gesundheitskompetenz. Die Gesundheitskompetenz in Deutschland stärken. Berlin: KomPart.