Improve Health Literacy Environment

Health services can be complex and confusing.

A health literate organisation is one that makes their health services and the information they provide easier to access, understand and act on.

That is, they improve the health literacy environment of their services. This has a huge impact on the health literacy of consumers using their services.

Want to improve the health literacy environment of your health services?

Follow this guide to embedding health literacy into your organisation or read on to find out more.

On this page:

Resources for my service

Activities to do with your team

Health literacy is determined by personal skills and the context in which those skills are applied.

Personal skills
and abilities

Situational demands
and complexity


Our aim is to make our health services less demanding and complex.

Northern NSW Local Health District and Healthy North Coast are committed to improving the health literacy environment of the services across the NSW North Coast region.

More information on brainstorming barriers

What might be some barriers for people to access your service, understand the information you provide, or action their health plans. Come up with ideas for how you might lessen these barriers. Put the actionable ideas into an action plan. 

Here’s an example from a general practice involved in the Women’s Cancer Screening Collaborative

Barrier: Access – Parking and hours of operation

Goal # 1 Change ideas for implementing this goal What, who, when, how?

  • Provide clear parking and access information for our service
  • Open extra hour one day a month for screening.
  • Add map and detailed parking instructions in recall and reminder letters
  • Update this information on our website
  • Develop scripts for reception staff to easily explain over the phone.
  • Discuss with community and staff when is best to provide extra hour.
  • I will draft the instructions and take a photo of the map from Google Maps.
  • At the next practice meeting I will raise this and ask for suggestions for the script. I will then send a draft to reception staff for feedback.
  • I will also show to some consumers in our waiting room for comment and feedback
JargonPlain Language
Pre-opBefore surgery
ECGElectrical picture of your heart
PRNWhen needed
SupineOn back
Discharge planningMaking a plan to get out of hospital
FastDo not eat during this time
SatsOxygen in blood
PathologySomething is not working right
Verbal comprehensionUnderstanding what other people are saying
FebrileHigh temperature
GaitWalking pattern
BilateralBoth sides
AbstainDon’t do
UF goalHow much fluid we want to take off
Primary health assessmentHealth check with GP
ProphylacticTo prevent
QID4 times a day
PivotChanging from an old strategy
AF(atrial fibrillation) Heart flutter/irregular heart rate
Nil by mouthNothing to eat or drink
Upper limbsArms
DyspnoeaShortness of breath
AnalgesiaPain relief

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