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.



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.

Around 63 per cent of Tasmanians aged 15-74 years do not have adequate health literacy to meet the complex demands of everyday life, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found.

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, 26TEN, and the Health Literacy Network.

Specifically, we’ve engaged the Tasmanian Council of Social Service (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.


The #hellomynameis initiative aims to break down barriers between practitioner and patient with simple gestures like introducing yourself, or wearing a name badge.

The campaign was born from the experience of Dr Kate Granger as a patient in a UK hospital in August 2013, where she was being treated for post-operative sepsis.

Click here to read more about #hellomynameis.