Toolkit for engaging Under-screened and Never-screened women in the National Cervical Screening Program

Health literacy

Page last updated: 17 November 2019 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

‘Health literacy’ refers to how people understand information about health and healthcare, and how they apply that information to their lives.

In Australia, it has been estimated that almost 60% of adults have a low level of individual health literacy. The proportion of people with low individual health literacy is even higher for people who speak English as a second language.

Low health literacy is a barrier to good health and healthcare. The following diagram provides an overview of some of the steps health services can take to help improve the health literacy of their patients.

Infographic on how you can help your patients understand their health better

Source: The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Health Literacy for Clinicians


Strategies include:
  • Asking the patient to repeat the instructions/information they have just been told
  • Expressing directions specifically , ‘you must take one week off work’ as opposed to ‘you need to rest’
  • Using plain language rather than medical terms
  • Sitting face-to-face with patients
  • Using simple diagrams and pictures,
  • Repeating directions multiple times, and
  • Try to embed all the above into your communication strategy- Use plain language, along with graphic, as well as Medical terminology (take this is a teaching opportunity) to explain and then get feedback to ensure client understanding.