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.


Current Health Literacy Work

Case study: Building health literacy responsiveness in Melbourne’s west

A case study of activities and outcomes from the Health Literacy Development Project was published in the Australian Health Review:

ML Allott, T Sofra, G O’Donnell, JL Hearne & L Naccarella. Building health literacy responsiveness in Melbourne’s west: a systems approach. Australian Health Review. Published online 24 October 2017. doi: 10.1071/AH17059

  • Read a free, pre-publication version of the case study here.


Health Literacy Alliance

The Health Literacy Alliance supports the development of an effective and consistent regional approach to health literacy responsiveness in Melbourne’s west and inner north. The Alliance will:

  • Provide a forum for practical peer learning and support for health literacy practitioners.
  • Identify and respond to common issues and challenges faced by health literacy practitioners.
  • Explore and coordinate regional health literacy action as agreed by Alliance members

HealthWest is partnering with Inner North West Primary Care Partnership (INWPCP) to deliver the Health Literacy Alliance.

  • Find out more about the Health Literacy Alliance here.


Vic PCP Online Health Literacy Course

HealthWest contributed to the governance and  development of the Vic PCP Online Health Literacy Course.

Read about and access the course here.


Previous Health Literacy Work

Health literacy was identified as a key priority 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.


Health Literacy Development Project 2013-2017

HealthWest partnered with cohealth and the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) from 2013 to 2017, to enhance health literacy responsiveness across the health and community services system in Melbourne’s west.

  • Evaluating the Ripple Effect: A series of three evaluation reports have been released examining different aspects of the project and are a must read for people who want to understand the drivers, enablers and barriers to creating health literacy change within organisations:
  • Health Literacy Development Course: HealthWest partnered with the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) and cohealth to develop and 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.


Better Health in Braybrook

In late 2015 representatives from HealthWest, cohealth, Maribyrnong City Council and the Braybrook community formed a partnership to deliver the Better Health in Braybrook Project. This project 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 and community participation within communities and organisations.



  • 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.



Estelle Donse
Health Literacy Project Manager
West and Inner North Metro Region
(03) 9248 9654