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What is the evidence on existing policies and linked activities and their effectiveness for improving health literacy at national, regional and organizational levels in the WHO European Region?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Gill Rowlands, Dr Siân Russell, Professor Amy O'DonnellORCiD, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).


Health literacy is gaining increasing attention as a means of promoting health. This evidence synthesis describes health literacy policies in the WHO European Region: their distribution, organizational levels, antecedents, actors, activities and outcomes, along with the factors influencing their effectiveness. Evidence was obtained by a scoping review of academic literature in English, Dutch and German and of grey literature in English, Dutch, German and Italian, supported by a Region-wide expert enquiry. Emerging findings were presented to representatives from 19 Member States of the Region to check for accuracy and omissions. The report highlights much good health literacy policy-related activity, mostly in the health and education sectors, and proposes areas for future development. Policy considerations to facilitate the sharing of good health literacy policy practice, the development of policy aims and activities across all societal areas, and the development of robust health literacy metrics to identify the need for and monitor effectiveness are presented.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rowlands GP, Russell S, O'Donnell A, Kaner E, Trezona A, Rademakers J, Nutbeam D

Series Editor(s): Takahashi,R;

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis reports

Type: Report

Year: 2018

Pages: 1-52

Print publication date: 14/06/2018

Online publication date: 14/06/2018

Acceptance date: 02/05/2018

Institution: World Health Organisation (Europe)

Place Published: Copenhagen, Denmark