Health Literacy

health literacy 2

What is Health Literacy?

Health Literacy is the ability to find, understand and act on health information, make health decisions and use health services. The majority (59%) of Australians have low health literacy (ABS, 2006).  To build health literacy, emphasis must be placed on the ability of organisations to communicate information and provide services that are accessible, relevant and appropriate for their communities.

Read about HealthWest’s commitment to modelling and supporting good health literacy practice in the West in our health literacy position statement.

Health Literacy & Community Partnership program report 2013-17

Health literacy and community participation were identified as key priorities in HealthWest’s Strategic Plan 2013-17. HealthWest successfully worked at a systems level to increase participation of individuals and communities in decision making at an individual, program and organisational level, with a focus on health literacy and community participation.

Download the program report to read about key health literacy and community participation activities and outcomes.

Assessing Health Literacy Practices in the West

Health literacy was identified as a key priority in HealthWest’s strategic plan 2013 – 2017. To help assess the impact of our work, HealthWest surveyed our member organisations to find out how health literacy practices have changed during this time.

The survey showed that HealthWest has helped drive and contributed to significant development of health literacy practices in our region.

Download the Survey Results Summary.

Better Health in Braybrook

In late 2015 representatives from cohealth, HealthWest Partnership, Braybrook community and Maribyrnong City Council formed a partnership to deliver the Better Health in Braybrook Project. A number of initiatives were happening around the Braybrook Community Hub at this time, which had a shared focus on health, health literacy and community leadership and inclusion. Better Health in Braybrook aimed to explore ‘what are the ingredients of a user-friendly and accessible Braybrook Community Hub?’ through a range of assessment, mapping, educational and strategic actions. This report explores the project outcomes and offers ideas on how to explore issue of health literacy within communities and organisations.

Download the Project Report.

Making a Splash: The Health Literacy Development Project

Since 2013, HealthWest has been delivering the Health Literacy Development Project with cohealth and the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH). This project is driving organisational and regional change across Melbourne’s West.

Key parts of this project include the Health Literacy Course, the Health Literacy Community of Practice and yearly evaluations.

Evaluating the Ripple Effect

A series of three evaluation reports have been released examining different aspects of the project:

  • Evaluating the Ripple Effect of the Health Literacy Project Initiatives at the Organisational Level 2015. This is a must read for people who want to understand the drivers, enablers and barriers to creating health literacy change within organisations – download the Executive Summary and Full Report.
  • Evaluation of the 2014 Health Literacy Professional Development Initiative – download the Executive Summary and Full Report.
  • 2013 Health Literacy Course Final Evaluation reportdownload the Full Report.

Project evaluations were conducted by an independent evaluator from the Health Systems & Workforce Unit at the University of Melbourne.

Health Literacy Practitioners Alliance

The Health Literacy Practitioners Alliance enables health literacy practitioners to provide peer support and use a regional approach to build health literacy awareness and practice in Melbourne’s west. The Alliance evolved from the Health Literacy Community of Practice.

Health Literacy Development Course

The Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) in partnership with HealthWest and cohealth (formerly Western Region Health Centre) deliver the Health Literacy Development Course to help health and community services implement health literacy within their organisations. For more information about the course, visit the CEH website.


  • HealthWest Checklist for Written Information (HealthWest 2017): A tip sheet to help develop clear, user-friendly written information.
  • Tips sheets (CEH, 2014): A series of nine information sheets were developed to provide guidance in exploring three elements useful in understanding and achieving health literacy.
  • Health Literacy Data (ABS, 2006): Data regarding health literacy across Australia.
  • National Statement on Health Literacy (ACSQHC, August 2014): This national approach to health literacy was endorsed by all health ministers.
  • Health Literacy: Taking Action to Improve Safety and Quality (ACSQHC, August 2014): A consultation paper from the Australian Commission on Safety, Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) describing key issues and themes in health literacy. The report identifies areas and actions that require coordinated health literacy action.
  • Health Literacy Research Network (The University of Sydney): A multidisciplinary, international research network which aims to develop research partnerships and collaborations.


Mindy Allott
Access & Inclusion Project Manager
(03) 9248 9658