What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is not a new concept; however, multiple definitions of and approaches to health literacy have appeared in literature.

The following definition for health literacy was the foundation for SHAPE America's guidance document, Appropriate Practices in School-Based Health Education:

Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, appraise, apply and advocate for health information and services in order to maintain or enhance one's own health and the health of others.

The Appropriate Practices document gives educators, administrators and curriculum specialists a blueprint for designing and delivering health education that meets national, state and local standards and frameworks.

The Goal of Health Education

The goal of health education is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to lead healthy lifestyles. A skills-based approach is a best practice for delivering high-quality health education.

Health literacy is an important measure of the effectiveness of health education and is critical to ensuring that students have the ability to be healthy throughout their lives.

Health-literate people are able to address their own health needs along with the needs of others. They are able to obtain and apply knowledge and skills to enhance their own health and the health of others — both now and in the future as their needs change throughout their lives.