The Health Literacy Competencies




Project summary

cohealth has developed a set of four staff competencies that relate to health literacy. These competencies are included in the position descriptions of all Allied Health, Counselling and Nursing staff at cohealth.


What are the Competencies?

Cohealth Staff will:

  1. Practice in a way that recognises all clients are at risk of misunderstanding health information
  2. Use easy to understand language and appropriate visual aids, understanding that clients learn best when a limited number of new concepts are presented at any time
  3. Demonstrate effective use of a teach back or “show me” techniques for assessing clients’ understanding
  4. Be client centered and use verbal/non-verbal active listening techniques that are socially and culturally appropriate


What are the benefits of the Competencies?

These competencies ensure that staff have the skills they need to communicate effectively to their clients. In turn, clients are better able to use this information to maintain their health and wellbeing.


How do the Competencies make cohealth a Health Literate Organisation?

Health Literate Organisations [1] [2]:

  • Understand that everyone is at risk of misunderstanding information.
  • Are committed to tailoring the way they communicate to suit people’s individual needs.
  • Are committed to communicating clearly and checking that information has been understood.

Health Literate Organisations also [2]:

  • Maintain a competent workforce by recruiting staff with appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes.
  • Provide their staff with supportive working environment, practice resources and development opportunities.



How did cohealth develop the Competencies?

Staff members from cohealth’s Allied Health, Counselling and Nursing disciplines attended health literacy training at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health. The competencies were developed as part of a project.

To develop the competencies these staff members did the following:

  • Conducted a literature review of Health Literacy Practices and Educational Competencies for Health Professionals and identified 80 possible competencies.
  • As a group they narrowed this list down to 9 competencies.
  • Consulted with Allied Health staff and clients, and further narrowed the list down to 4 competencies.
  • Amended Staff Position Descriptions to include these competencies.
  • Provided health literacy training for current and new cohealth staff. This training is done through both an online learning module and during staff meetings.


More information

Click here for more information about cohealth and their health literacy work.



[1] Ministry of Health, 2015, Health Literacy Review: A guide. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

[2] Trezona, Dodson & Osborne, 2017, Organisational Health Literacy Responsiveness (Org-HLR) Self Assessment Tool and User Guide, Deakin University.