Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Health Literacy

Literacy is a Key Determinant of Health
Literacy is a range of abilities to communicate, think critically, and make decisions in daily life. It helps us understand the world we live in. Low literacy takes away opportunities in life, as this short clip from Project Literacy  shows:

Video by Project Literacy (South Africa)
Millions of Canadians Face Literacy Challenges
In Canada, almost half of the adult population (48 per cent) aged 16-69 years have difficulty with the reading and writing tasks that are expected in our society.
In Ontario, 1 in 5 adults have serious difficulty with reading any printed material.
Statistics Canada (2005). Building on our Competencies: Canadian Results of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, 2003. Ottawa: Author. [PDF - 1.4 MB]
 What is Health Literacy?
The Expert Panel on Health Literacy defines health literacy as “the ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain, and improve health in a variety of settings across the life-course.”
Canadian Public Health Association (2008). A Vision for a Health Literate Canada: Report on the Expert Panel on Health Literacy. Ottawa: Author.
The Institute of Medicine’s influential report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion (2004), points out that health literacy goes beyond the capacity of the individual to arise from a convergence of education, health services, social and cultural factors.

A brief video overview of key issues of health literacy:  
Video by the Institute of Medicine
Key Resources on Health Literacy
Canadian Council on Learning. (2007) Health Literacy in Canada: Initial Results from the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Ottawa: Author. [PDF - 742 KB]

Canadian Public Health Association, Health Literacy Portal
Centre for Health Literacy
http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/health/HLlinks.html   http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/health/PLlinks.html
United States
American Medical Association has a Health Literacy Education Toolkit 2007 for sale
Harvard School of Public Health resources on health literacy http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/overview.html#Two
Joint Commission Public Policy Initiative (2007). “What did the doctor say?:” Improving health literacy to protect patient safety. Oakbrook Terrace: Author. [PDF - 990 KB]
National Centre for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy
General Resources on Literacy
Movement for Canadian Literacy
National Adult Literacy Database
Ontario Literacy Coalition
Literacy Matters [PDF - 93 KB]
Literacy in Context
Ontario Native Literacy Coalition
Literacy Organizations in Ontario

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