Organisational Health Literacy

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Health Literacy Universal Precautions

Experts recommend taking Health Literacy Universal Precautions. This means recognising that it is not possible to know a person’s level of individual health literacy by looking at them. Therefore, it is important to assume that there will be barriers to understanding and to reduce the complexity of information and service provided for all health consumers.

Only 40 per cent of Australian adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage the demands of our complex health care system. People’s ability to absorb and use health information can also be impacted by stress or illness. Like with blood safety, universal precautions should be taken to address health literacy because we don’t know who is challenged by health care information and tasks at any given time.

Health Literacy Universal Precautions are a way to:

  • Simplify communication and confirm comprehension for all people, so that the risk of miscommunication is minimised.
  • Make the office environment and health care system easier to navigate.
  • Support people’s efforts to improve their health.


The Ten Attributes of a Health Literate Organisation

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care recommends using the Ten Attributes of a Health Literate Organisation to address health literacy. These elements help services identify ways to implement Health Literacy Universal Precautions.

Organisations can also use these attributes to identify opportunities to improve health literacy.


Checklist for Health Literate Organisations

This tool looks at all aspects of an organisation to identify areas in which health literacy could be improved. It also suggests ideas for improvement.

Primary Care Health Literacy Assessment Tool

This tool is designed to help you assess your practice’s operations and how they may impact on people’s heath literacy. The tool is mapped to the 4th Edition RACGP accreditation standards.  

The Gippsland Guide to becoming a Health Literate Organisation

This guide provides tools and resources to support your organisation to become more health literate. The guide has been developed specifically to align with health service and general practice accreditation standards.


Assessing the health literacy environment

Assessing the health literacy environment is a key step in identifying barriers to access and use of health services.


Harvard University has developed some tools that can help you to assess the health literacy environment of your health service or general practice. The tools are available here.

NSW Health Guideline: Wayfinding for Healthcare Facilities

This guideline helps to design or review health facilities so they are easy to navigate.


 Verbal communication   Health Literacy Handbook