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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Health Literacy: online discussion

by Zsolt Vincze


Health Literacy: online discussion

Welcome to the online discussion on Health Literacy organised by the EBSN EPALE team!
The discussion is open to everyone and will take place on this page between Monday, 6th (starting from 10.00 CET) and Tuesday, 7th November 2017. It will be moderated by Helen Casey, UK and the EBSN EPALE team.

Feel free to share your opinion and comment related to:

  • The situation of health literacy in your country
  • How to ensure the health systems more accessible to citizens
  • The role of adult education.

We would also be very interested to read (very) short case studies of health literacy initiatives, including links to documents and web resources that provide more information. It does not matter if these are not in English.

**Please note that comments may be over several pages. Please refresh the page and scroll to the bottom to click through to comments on other pages.**

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Helen Ryan's picture

Hello all,

NALA looks at health literacy and numeracy in two ways:

1. people understand health information correctly and can make an informed decision and

2. health services communicate clearly and take account of possible health literacy and numeracy needs.

More information is in our factsheet here


In Ireland health literacy is in our Government's Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing - Healthy Ireland. It has an action to "Address and prioritise health literacy in developing future policy, educational and information interventions."

NALA works with health services to see how they engage with people who have literacy and numeracy needs and helps them to become more health literacy friendly. We have developed health literacy quality standards for phamacies, general practices (doctor surgery) and hosptials. When asked we work with services to:

  • raise awareness of health literacy
  • audit their services
  • deliver workshops and training on general awareness and plain English


Crystal Clear programme

In 2015 Ireland’s first health literacy quality mark was launched by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), along with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP). The programme was developed to recognise the critical role general practices and pharmacies play in helping patients understand their health issues and the practical steps they can take to improve their health.

It is free to take part in the programme and the quality mark is given for two years. To get the mark, you complete the online audit. The audit asks nine questions under 4 areas:

  • Policies and procedures – 2 questions
  • Communications – 4 questions
  • Staff awareness – 2 questions
  • Evaluating and improving – 1 questions

You must also supply evidence such as photographs of clear signage, examples of clearly written letters and ways that staff communicate effectively with people in a literacy friendly way.

We developed a booklet to support pharmacies and general practices to become more literacy friendly and get the mark.

More information at: 


Supporting health and wellbeing in local communities through ‘Well Now!’

In 2015-6 NALA developed Well Now! – a 10-session course on health and wellbeing for adults in the community. It was delivered using a partnership model of provision between a local authority, a local education provider and local health service professionals. You can find out more information at and the Well Now! guide has more detail on the course. You can also listen to those involved in this video at  


If anyone would like any more information on these initiatives, please email me at 


Kind regards,

Helen (NALA Policy Officer)


Laura Austen-Gray's picture
Many thanks Helen for providing this comprehensive summary and links to great resources. 
Ben Vaske's picture

Not mentioned in this thread so far are the exercise materials om health subjects on, the largest portal in The Netherlands specifically developed for lower educated (young) adults who want to improve skills with regard to language or literacy, numeracy and digital skills. These skills are embedded in subjects as health, work, parenting and money. In 2016 there were 656.693 accounts on this portal!

Individual work at home is free of charge. Organisations that want to work with must buy a license. An initiative strangely enough not funded by the national government!

Here you find the programmes with health subjects:

For instance Begrijp je lichaam (Know your body), De Thuisdokter (Home doctor), Gezond zwanger worden (Become healthy pregnant), Lees en Schrijf! Eten en weten (Read and Write. Eating and knowing) and Praten met je dokter (Talking to your doctor).

Most of these programmaes have additional worksheets, books and User/Teacher manuals.

All the programmes on have a low language level.

Lots of organisations and their students/clients work with For instance libraries in The Netherlands, organisations that employ people with disabolities, regional training centres and lots of other formal and non formal organisations. want to be the medium through which people can develop themselves. 'We always learn'.

The portal is offered by Stichting Experticentrum (Foundation Expertise Center in The Hague.

Helen Casey's picture

Thank you everyone for your contributions to this discussion over the past two days. The moderated period  has now come to an end, but the discussion will remain open. 

I look forward to future discussions here and in the new forum that Graciela has announced. Do please visit the new forum at /en/private/ebsn-forum-health-literacy

Bye for now!

Graciela Sbertoli's picture

Thank you, everybody, for your input til this discussion.

The EBSN has just created a Community of Practice here in Epale where we can continue the discussion without a time limit.

Do join us there, please!

Direct link: /en/private/ebsn-forum-health-literacy

See you!

Elena Galifianaki's picture

Thank you Graciela, I just joined this new CoP!


Marieke HANEKAMP's picture

A wonderful initiative Graciela, many thanks! I will bring this under attention in the Netherlands!

Alexandra Szabo's picture

The piloting of the “Health Development University” was finished in 2015. This project can be a good example for health literacy.

One and a half years ago, the development of a Health Development University concept was completed. Now we strive to test this model of higher education and introduce it over time.

The Health Development University Program is a comprehensive development process aimed at promoting health, living conditions and quality of life of campus citizens (students, teachers, employees). With this program, the university or college can increase its competitiveness, quality and reputation, improve attraction and reduce dropout rates. The Health Development University Program is a system-wide, comprehensive health-oriented organization development process that can affect all of the university's major areas of operation.

The fundamental aim of the University of Health Development is that the commitment to health should pass on the operation of higher education institutions and be emphasized in all their fields.

This thinking is integrated into the institution's structure, processes and organizational culture. It aims at realizing and exploiting the core potential of the institution, which is the result of its nature and situation, alongside promoting health and quality of life. This change is to be achieved in close, open, sincere cooperation with students, workers and the wider community, so that values, goals, processes, results become part of the institutional culture.

Helen Casey's picture

Hi Alexandra, Thanks for the info about this interesting project, integrating health education across a university, ensuring health awareness throughout. I wonder whether the project also has the capacity to pay attention to the literacy levels needed for workers and the wider community to access the health information?