Health literacy

Health literacy refers to a person’s ability to grasp basic health information and services so they can make informed and appropriate decisions about their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

It can affect everyday tasks like reading nutritional information on food packaging, making medical appointments and following medication dosage advice.

Lower levels of health literacy means people may be more reliant on services, healthcare providers, hospital and emergency services. It also means people are less able to use programs to keep them healthy.

Good organisational health literacy practices make it easier for people to find, understand and use the information and services they need, so they can have better health and wellbeing.


One in 10 Tasmanian adults report finding it difficult to understand health information well enough to know what to do.


Teach-back is a simple conversational tool used to check client understanding. Using teach-back can help your clients self-manage their health and make informed decisions about their health care. Teach-back is not a test of the clients’ knowledge; it’s a test of how well you have communicated.

Primary Health Tasmania commissioned TasCOSS to develop two educational videos about using the teach-back method during telehealth consultations: an online general practice consult, and a telephone dietitian consult.

You can read a fact sheet explaining the teach-back process here.

Our involvement

Primary Health Tasmania works closely on health literacy initiatives with partners across the state, including the Tasmanian Department of Health, the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Council of Social Services (TasCOSS), 26TEN, and the Health Literacy Network.

Specifically, we’ve engaged TasCOSS to help health and community service providers improve the health literacy processes and practices.

This includes:

  • embedding health literacy into organisational policies and procedures
  • ensuring health information is clear, focused and useable
  • integrating health literacy into education for consumers and healthcare providers.

TasCOSS’s HeLLO Tas! website includes tools and resources for organisations interested in assessing how health literate they are, and what they could do to improve.

We’ve also created this fact sheet summarising key elements of health literacy in general practice, including how the RACGP Standards for General Practice (5th Edition) have been mapped against organisational health literacy dimensions within the HeLLO Tas! Toolkit.

This poster we have developed covers what health literacy is, why it’s important, and what organisations and individuals can do to support health literacy. It also links to supporting resources, and highlights how implementing health literacy initiatives supports compliance with industry standards.